Photo: Rob Suisted
The modern push for plain language emerged from the consumer rights movements of the 1970s. Since then, technological advances and intensified competition have dramatically transformed the consumer landscape, with consumers today faced with a wide and often bewildering array of complex products and services.
As complexity has grown, the emphasis in consumer policy has shifted away from prescriptive regulation and market intervention in favour of consumer information and education approaches. And most recently, the emerging discipline of behavioural economics has drawn attention not only to the critical role of information, but also to the subtleties of how it's provided and to the pitfalls of information overload.
What can plain language practitioners contribute to the central goals of 21st century consumer policy: consumers who know their rights and are equipped to make good decisions? How do we frame our work in a way that resonates with policymakers? And what must governments and plain language advocates alike remember about the limits of information as a policy tool — particularly for vulnerable consumers?
Using real-world examples from telecommunications, utilities and the financial services, this presentation will draw out the relevance of consumer policy trends for plain language practitioners and advocates.