Those who were worried about the way manufacturers and the market could draw the consumer into a net that ensnared him in different ways-both making him buy goods he did not really “want” and also providing him with shoddy goods- quickly sought to set up bodies that would prevent this.
In the 19th century itself, in France, shoddy goods led to recourse to law, and also to judgments that were hostile to manufacturers.
In Britain, the period from the mid-19th century witnessed a rash of legislation to prevent deception of the buyer: the sale of Food and Drugs Act (1893), a series of weights and measures Acts (1878- 1936), and, dealing with purchase on the basis of part payment, the Hire and Purchase Act (1938).
Movements at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries to protect consumers have been identified with various personalities: Percy Red fern and Beatrice Webb in Britain, Charles Gide and Jean Prudhommeaux France, Louis de Brochure in Belgium.
The work of activists and their latter-day followers, coping with the aid of TV, has led to a fresh wave of consumer-protection legislation in Britain. This followed the formation of the Molony Committee on Consumer Protection in 1962, which led in 1963 to the formation of the Consumer Council.
The legislation that followed intensified consumer protection in the market place; the Trades Description Act (1965), the Fair Trading Act (1973), the Restrictive Trade Practices Act (1977) and the Consumer Safety Act (1978). Similar activities and legislation had figured in France and Germany around groups that came together around the Council of Consumer Groups (Germany) and the National Consumption Institute.
In these circumstances, the fears that were often expressed of the consequences of consumerism may be valid at some levels, but they are far from applicable as a rule. Not only in Modern Europe, but also in the Modern World, the story of consumption has been too different to justify a single perspective.