The Draft Directive on Consumer Rights: Choices Made and Arguments Used
Willem H. Van Boom
Leiden Law School
May 29, 2009
Journal of Contemporary European Research, Vol. 5, No. 3, pp. 452-464, 2009
The 2008 Proposal for a Directive on Consumer Rights aims at reorganizing the "acquis" of four specific European Directives on consumer protection into a more coherent codification of consumer rights. Specifically, it contains rules on precontractual information duties, on withdrawal rights for distance and off-premises contracts, on consumer sales and on general contract terms in consumer contracts.
In replacing four Directives with a minimum harmonization character, the Draft marks a further step towards full harmonization of consumer contract law in Europe. This is an unsettling step because the level of protection offered to consumers in the Draft hardly exceeds the level of protection offered by the four Directives mentioned earlier. Instead, it even diminishes this protection in some regards. In light of all this, the question arises whether the policy choices underlying the Draft are in fact convincingly underpinned by solid argumentation. This paper addresses this issue by first analyzing the Draft's use of the generic concept of "contracts between consumers and traders". I will argue that full harmonization of a badly delineated territory is ill-advised. Subsequently I will test the argumentative power of the policy considerations forwarded by the European Commission in its Regulatory Assessment Study.
I conclude that the Commission's assessment of expected costs and benefits of the Draft is waver-thin and geared towards persuading the reader of the aptness of choices already made. In some respects, the evidence presented by the Commission is outright unconvincing. At certain points, the Draft even fuels the reader's suspicion of foregone conclusions. Overall, the need for reduction of the level of protection offered by the current minimum harmonization Directives is poorly argued by the Commission and appears in a number of important ways not to reflect the socio-economic relationships that exist in at least some of the Member States.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 13
Keywords: European consumer law, full harmonization, domestic preferences, Regulatory Impact Assessment
JEL Classification: D18, K12
Date posted: May 30, 2009 ; Last revised: November 17, 2009