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Two Decades, Three Key Questions, and Evolving Answers in European Consumer Insolvency Law: Responsibility, Discretion, and Sacrifice

Jason J. Kilborn

The John Marshall Law School; Radboud University Nijmegen

December 17, 2007

This paper surveys the three most salient questions that have engaged policymakers in the last twenty years - and particularly the last ten - of insolvency law in Europe. This period has seen the discussion, emergence, and often multiple reforms of almost every consumer insolvency law in Europe. Consequently, we can now see not only points in time, but the lines that connect numerous points, and the convergence of these lines across Europe over time. Consumer insolvency policy has been in an almost constant state of flux in Europe since the 1990s, and it will likely to continue to be in the years to come. This paper situates the current status of policy in its historical context with an eye toward predicting what the future holds and offering suggestions for evolving policy. Part I untangles the numerous strands of argumentation that supported the adoption of distinct consumer insolvency law across Europe. Part II traces the development of consumer insolvency relief in terms of two intertwined sets of defining characteristics: discretion versus uniformity, and preservation versus destruction of contract rights. Over the last decade, a clear trend has emerged, driven largely by practical concerns, favoring uniformity of treatment and aggressive discharge of debt. Finally, Part III concludes with a brief look at the sacrifices demanded of debtors and the reasons for a gradual softening of these demands, along with the sticky question of state financing for relief in a system where most of the beneficiaries cannot afford to bear the administrative costs of that relief.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 19

Keywords: consumer, bankruptcy, debt relief

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Date posted: January 3, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Kilborn, Jason J., Two Decades, Three Key Questions, and Evolving Answers in European Consumer Insolvency Law: Responsibility, Discretion, and Sacrifice (December 17, 2007). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1080252 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1080252

Contact Information

Jason J. Kilborn (Contact Author)
The John Marshall Law School ( email )
315 South Plymouth Court
Chicago, IL 60604
United States
Radboud University Nijmegen ( email )
Nijmegen, 6500 HK
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