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Consumer protection without government regulation

Anand, I’d like to thank you on behalf of pretty much every single person on the planet. You’re doing an amazing job with making companies actually care about their customers and do what is right.

Thank you so much, and keep up the amazing work.

This comment was left on the Anandtech review of a solid state data storage device. Anandtech is something of a force in the tech world. It reviews computer components, developing ways of testing and comparing them. It describes in detail how they work and how this affects what they can and can not do, and how relatively well they do this or that thing. Because so much detail is provided, and because Anandtech listens to its commenters and makes corrections when errors are noticed, I find it is usually sufficient for my needs to skip to the end of a 10,000 word review, knowing that I can trust the summary.

The quote above is in response to the description of an email conversation between the site’s founder, Anand Shimpi, and top executives at the company producing the solid state drives. The essence of the discussion is that Anand has found that use of internal components from different manufacturers affects the performance of the drive. Customers can not tell what they are getting just by looking at the outside of the product, so he would like the company to label their products accordingly so that customers can decide which ones to buy.

Anandtech is such a force in the tech world that the company immediately agreed.

Imagine that. Improved product labelling without any government regulation required.

Update: title changed as suggested by Brian in the comments.

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12 comments to Consumer protection without government regulation

  • Rob

    My only query about this otherwise excellent posting is your use of the word “regulation” in the title, minus any mention of it being government regulation.

    There could easily be free market regulation, and I have no doubt at all that numerous examples exist. Arguably, you described such a thing in this posting, although maybe it makes more sense to call it people acting in response to an authoritative complaint/suggestion, rather than regulation.

    But what if some respected private organisation (like Anandtech) publishes a set of regulations for making some particular product or service, and other organisations choose to follow those rules, so that they can boast about it. This is surely regulation. It just isn’t government regulation.

    My grumble is a bit like the related grumble, when people confuse “law” with state law.

    LATER: Following this and other comments on the subject of “government regulation” versus freelance regulation, Rob has, as I later suggested, amended the posting’s title.

  • Yes, you are quite right. After my post about semantics I should try harder. But in everyday use regulation is a synonym of “government regulation”. To the extent that it has affected the way I think. And I *know* this happens and I *still* fall for it; all of which supports that post, I think.

  • Tedd

    Personally, I try to always use the phrase “government regulation,” rather than the short-hand “regulation,” to emphasize that government regulation is only one, narrow form of regulation. And I try not to miss an opportunity, when regulation comes up as an issue, to point out that the free market is the dominant form of regulation in a liberal democracy. (“Liberal democracy” being another phrase that is often truncated — to “democracy” — with a corresponding loss of understanding.)

  • Personally I would favour a retrospective change of the title, accompanied by a comment acknowledging that this has happened. That’s what I would do.

  • RickC

    Just had a conversation with my oldest nephew on how odd it is in the internet age, when I see real possibilities for the expansion of liberty, that world governments seems hellbent on even more centralization of control. I can understand governments actually, but I don’t understand the mobs of citizens (OWS-types for instance) demanding that governments take more control over everything.

    The conversation was kicked off by a tv commercial for Angie’s List here in the states. The website provides local people a forum for rating businesses, contractors, etc. Nothing puts the brakes on poor or questionable business practices like bad reviews from real people, at least if they want to remain in business. What better protection could the government offer to consumers than that? Just one example of how the creativity and innovation of John/Joan Q. Public could positively impact society without the heavy hand of government.

  • Alisa

    Amazon’s review system is a classic example (did I just put the words ‘Amazon’ and ‘classic’ in the same sentence? I believe I did:-))

  • Sigivald

    Anandtech is such a force in the tech world that the company immediately agreed.

    Well, it might be more accurate to say that the company realized that by advertising their superior internal components they could sell more stuff.

    It’s quite possible they might have figured that one out even without Anandtech, though Anand deserves kudos for being the catalyst in this instance.

    (That said, Anandtech is an excellent resource and deserves all the influence it has; for historical reasons I usually go to TomsHardware first, but I consider either one Most Excellent.)

  • “it might be more accurate to say that the company realized that by advertising their superior internal components they could sell more stuff”

    Maybe, but since they were selling both good and bad components with the same name (and now different names, or at least a different letter code) it could equally work the other way and they could find they have to sell the drives with the bad components for less.

  • It’s not only the term “government regulation”. I for one also like to use the term “government sector” in place of “public sector”.

  • Paul Marks

    Underwriter’s Labs.

    An example of a private labs safety testing products – Unterwriter’s Labs depends on its reputation (if it lets companies off light – and the product proves to be unsafe, then the reputation is undermined).

    The old rules of the City of London (pre 1986) – yes they were “restrictive practices” (in a sense), but that is not all they were.

    For example, the cap on commission for selling insurance products – that was a cartel. But no one would be sent to prison for violating the cartel.

    Anyone (and any company) could pay whatever commission they liked – they would be just be thrown out of the association (there was no criminal sanction of any kind).

    “But Paul – that meant that people in the City of London would not even talk to them, would even turn their backs if they spotted them, and would cross the street if they happened to be walking on the same side of the road…..”

    I am not John Stuart Mill – I do not regard “shunning” (indeed a public display of shunning) as a violation of liberty.

    Ditto the “restictions” in the stock exchange (with people being divided into brookers who bought shares for the public and jobbers who sold shares for companies) – people were free to buy and sell shares at a rival exchange (if they wanted to set one up) or “off exchange”. The old rules just applied to the London stock exchange – a private thing set up in 1801 and setting its own rules till 1986.

    Also (again unlike John Stuart Mill) I do regard a government regulation against the sellers of goods or services as a violation of liberty (in “On Liberty” Mills says that only regulations on buyers, not sellers, are a violation of liberty – which makes no sense).

    And the alternative to shunning (and so on) to not being allowed in the private club (but being quite free to trade outside) was (soon enough) endless “Financial Services Acts”.

    I.E. thousands of pages of government regulations – endless box ticking.

    Whilst the ordinary customers got …………

  • I often read about 8000 words of 10000 word Anandtech reviews. You can learn so much.