A continuous, hefty expansion of mass distribution of goods and services, the increased volume of cross-border commerce, and the growing unbalance in the bargaining powers of producers and consumers engendered a heated debate on whether and to which extent legislators should intervene to regulate the market and protect weaker parties.
Inspired by the necessity to solve market failures or to promote distributive justice and protect the individual’s fundamental rights and needs, since the 1970s consumer protection has gained momentum as one of the key regulatory aspects of national and international commerce. The legislative and judicial activism of the European Union placed consumer law in the heart of European private law. At the same time, the United States followed the European trend and abandoned their traditional deference towards freedom of contract in favor of a more protective and fairness-oriented regulation of B2C transactions. As a result, today consumer protection law represents a fundamental part of the toolbox of a successful international business lawyer.
This course aims to provide a comparative overview of the subject. After a brief historical introduction on the evolution of consumer law in Europe and the United States, we will analyze the most relevant areas of legislative intervention, such as electronic commerce and distance selling, credit and investment market, sale of consumer goods and related guarantees, product liability, standard contract forms and unfair terms, unfair business practices and regulation of advertisings. Then, we will turn to the analysis of a number of jurisdictional, ADR and choice of law problems, in light of their impact on the effectiveness of consumer protection in cross-border or Internet transactions. Last, we will conclude with a look to the challenges consumer law will need to face in the near future. Each subject will be analyzed in a comparative perspective, with a focus on the reasons underlying the different regulatory choices and on the possible effects of such discrepancies on transnational commerce.
Ability to understand general rules and principles of consumer protection law and to apply them in national and cross-border scenarios.
Ability to identify and understand the different levels of consumer protection in Europe and the United States, and the effect of such discrepancies on transnational commerce.
Ability to analyze the policy rationales underlying the different regulatory choices and to argue on their strengths and weaknesses.
Assessment is based 70% on a written final exam (two hour closed book in-class exam, with two short-answer questions and a case study) and 30% on class participation.