Vanderbilt Law Review


W. E. Forte

First Page



In 1872, Congress began protecting the American consumer by enacting legislation to prevent mail fraud. From this modest beginning, the consumer protection activities of the federal government have proliferated until today there are at least 33 government agencies engaged in 296 consumer protection activities. In 1961, the estimated annual expenditures by the federal government for direct consumer protection activities totaled 272 million dollars and the number of full-time federal employees engaged in such activities was almost 22,000. Expenditures for consumer advancement, a broader concept, were estimated at 681 million dollars in 1961 and the number of full time federal employees assigned to such work was nearly 43,000.

Current figures for such expenditures and employees would surely be substantially greater. This vast expenditure of money and time was not coordinated or administered by any single department or agency of the federal government. The activities were conducted independently except when independent federal agencies, in their own discretion, found it advisable to consult among themselves.