Document Type

Article

Abstract

Non-English-speaking consumers deserve the same protection as other consumers, and thus, this article advocates guarantees for their ability to strike informed bargains. To safeguard consumers most vulnerable to unfair and deceptive trade practices, this article contemplates a comprehensive strategy of reform that involves the legislatures, administrative agencies, and courts, as well as nonprofit organizations that advocate for language minorities and merchants themselves. Part I examines the growth in numbers of monolingual Latino/a consumers and documents their experience in the American marketplace. Part I also explores the shortcomings of existing remedies under the common law and consumer protection regulation when applied to non-English-speaking consumers. Part II details potential obstacles to establishing effective consumer protection for Latinos/as and other language minorities. English language movement's repeated calls for a "sink or swim" standard for language minorities in settings ranging from the classroom to the voting booth. The anti-immigrant climate that spawned California's Proposition 187 may also impede reform efforts. Part III proposes reforms to common law remedies and to statutory consumer protection to place more responsibility on businesses when they deal with language minority consumers. Part III also provides a model of self-regulation for merchants who desire to accommodate these consumers. Finally, the article revisits President Kennedy's consumer "bill of rights" from the point of view of Latino/a consumers. Due to the large number of monolingual Spanish-speaking Latinos/as in the American marketplace, this article focuses on these consumers. Much of the analysis and proposed reforms, however, extend to other language minority groups.