The Average Consumer, the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, and the Cognitive Revolution

Journal of Consumer Policy Issue, Vol. 30, No. 1, pp. 21-38, March 2007

18 Pages Posted: 16 Jan 2008


This article examines the merit of the test of the average consumer as a basis for judicial and regulatory action. In the first part, we describe the origin of the test, its application in the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive and its possible developments. In the second part, we discuss the theoretical grounds of the average consumer test (i.e., information and rationality), drawing upon the studies of cognitive psychology and behavioural economics concerning consumers' behaviour. The result of our analysis is that we call into serious question the practical workability of the test of the average consumer, which requires consumers an overly demanding standard of rationality and information without dedicating much attention to the real functioning of consumer behaviour. The average consumer may be described as an interesting, anti-paternalistic and, to some extent, useful notion. It is, however, an overly simplistic concept with little correspondence with the real world of individual consumer behaviour and should be reinterpreted more flexibly, or even abandoned to mirror consumer behaviour more effectively.

Keywords: Average consumer, Unfair commercial practice directive, Cognitive studies

Suggested Citation

Poncibò, Cristina and Incardona, Rossella, The Average Consumer, the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, and the Cognitive Revolution. Available at SSRN:

Cristina Poncibò (Contact Author)

European University Institute ( email )

Villa Schifanoia
133 via Bocaccio
Firenze (Florence), Tuscany 50014

Rossella Incardona

Jenny & Partners ( email )

via Durini 27
Milano, 20122
003902778931 (Phone)

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