Institutional and Political Sources of Legislative Change: Explaining How Private Organizations Influence the Form and Content of Consumer Protection Legislation


  • Shauhin A. Talesh

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    • Shauhin A. Talesh is Assistant Professor of Law, Sociology, and Criminology, Law & Society at the University of California, Irvine. Thanks to Catherine Albiston, Lauren Edelman, Malcolm Feeley, Bob Kagan, Martin Shapiro, Doug Spencer, Chris Whytock, and the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier drafts. I thank the National Science Foundation (SES-0919874) for providing funds for data collection and analysis. An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2013 American Association of Law School Conference (Law & Social Sciences Section). Please direct all correspondence to Shauhin Talesh, University of California, Irvine, School of Law, 401 East Peltason Drive, Ste. 4800L, Irvine, CA 92697; e-mail:


This article explores how private organizations influence the content and meaning of consumer protection legislation. I examine why California forced consumers to use a private dispute resolution system that affords consumers fewer rights, while Vermont adopted a state-run disputing structure that affords consumers greater rights. Drawing from historical and new institutional theories, I analyze twenty-five years of legislative history, as well as interviews with drafters of the California and Vermont laws, to show how automobile manufacturers weakened the impact of a powerful California consumer warranty law by creating dispute resolution venues. As these structures became institutionalized in the lemon law field, manufacturers reshaped the meaning of legislation. Unlike California, the political alliances in Vermont and a different developmental path led to a state-run dispute resolution structure. I conclude that how social reform laws are designed and how businesses influence social reform legislation can increase or decrease the achievement of a statute's social reform goals.