You are here

Robert R. Kerton

Adjunct Professor; Distinguished Professor Emeritus and former Dean of Arts

Robert R. Kerton.BComm (Toronto); MA (Carleton); PhD (Duke)
Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Areas of specialization: Consumer economics; International consumer policy; Microeconomics of regulation; Public policy


I was born in London, Ontario, went to public school there and high schools at Ajax and Pickering. I studied Commerce and Finance at Toronto where I discovered that I enjoyed economics…though even at that age, the assumption that consumers and firms have ‘full information’ struck me as implausible. Still, I could see that the application of economic principles was crucial to understanding economic issues. I began a ‘permanent’ well-paying job on graduation, but left abruptly to go deeper into economics. My PhD advisor, JJ Spengler, was Past President of the American Economics Association and well-known as a man-of-all-science, a daunting but rewarding path. At doctorate time, I found I was demographically lucky (scarce) with an overwhelming number of job offers. I chose the University of Waterloo because it was so confidently different from other universities. Students who choose Waterloo are also different – in a most positive way. Over the years I have thoroughly enjoyed the two-way learning exchange. Second year micro – with practical examples – was one rewarding class. My main course was one I originally created, now called consumer economics and marketing.  The one our students liked best was Canadian economic problems.

I enjoy working with students, faculty, staff, off-campus teachers, activists, policy-makers and others.  I continue this interest on the Board of the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education which provides original material for students at all ages.  I’ve had impressive and unselfish support in a number of roles, including terms as Chair of Economics, and as Dean of the Faculty of Arts.  As an Adjunct Professor, I am working with consumer-interest researchers in nine different disciplines to create a Canadian network that can help the country use research to make a significant difference in our standard of living.  Our group has eleven partners from the public and private sectors.

Research interests

My research has a focus on consumer economics. Why don’t consumers gain the benefits a competitive economy is supposed to deliver? Can we remove regulations that give favours to special interests and keep regulations that protect health and safety? Why are there so many scams?  Why does shoddy service persist in the market? Particularly rewarding was a 13 year span of volunteer advocacy work I did - with others - in helping Canada bring in its Competition Act. This led to further public interest presentations on consumer issues. In all, I testified more than three dozen occasions as an ‘expert’ witness at parliamentary hearings and Senate or other enquiries relating to proposed legislation. When private interest lobbyists were really strong, little or nothing was gained by work for the public interest. However, effort was worthwhile on other issues: trade policy, metrication, truth-in-pricing, consumption taxes, financial sector transparency and redress.

In 1990 I wrote "Financial Quality and the Consumer Interest", in the Canadian Banker / Le Banquier and in 1995, "A Consumer Test for Financial Regulation in Canada,” published in Policy Options / Options PolitiquesRight after that I was lucky to be asked to supervise a program of consumer-interest research for the MacKay Task Force on the Future of Canada’s Financial Services Sector. The research on consumer policies in eight countries was published in 1998 in two volumes. That research provided the base for the creation of Canada’s Financial Consumers Agency (FCAC) in 2001. The FCAC is designed to bring the effectiveness of Canada’s financial services up to the best international level.  The evidence shows that consumer-oriented improvements took place right away at Canadian banks and financial institutions. The Office played a role in avoiding the market misconduct problems experienced in the US - misconduct that provoked the worldwide financial meltdown in 2008.  Ireland and other countries followed Canada’s example and eventually, in 2010, the US created its own Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Selected publications

  1. 2015. Robert R. Kerton. "Canadian Consumer Movement" in Watchdogs and Whistleblowers: A Reference Guide to Consumer Activism, edited by Stephen Brobeck and Robert N. Mayer; Greenwood Press; pp. 57-61,
  2. 2012.  Academic Consumer Interest Research in Policy-Making: Strengthening a Canadian Network. (Ed.) and  Synopses of papers presented at a Workshop supported by the Social Sciences Research Council of Canada ($37,600) and Industry Canada; September 30 at Victoria University, Toronto.
  3. 1998. Consumers in the Financial Services Sector, Volume 1: Principles, Practice and Policy ‑ the Canadian Experience, (Editor and Contributor) pp. 267; Volume 2 (Editor): Consumers in the Financial Services Sector: International Experience, Research Papers for the Task Force on the Future of the Canadian Financial Services Sector. Ottawa. ISBN 0‑662‑27146‑7 and ISBN 0‑662‑27147 ‑ .
  4. 1995.  "A Consumer Test for Financial Regulation in Canada,” Policy Options / Options Politiques, Institute for Research on Public Policy, 16 (5), June.
  5. 1990.  “Financial Quality and the Consumer Interest,” Canadian Banker 97 (4); pp. 6-13.  " La qualité des services financières et l'intérêt du consommateur," Le Banquier, Juillet/Août, pp.24-31.
  6. 1990. Double Standards: Consumer and Worker Protection in an Unequal World, pp. iv, 41; Deux Poids, Deux Mesures: La protection inégale du travailleur et du consommateur, pp. iv, 46;  North-South Institute, 55 Murray St., Ottawa.
University of Waterloo