Buttons, Boxes, Ticks, and Trust: On the Narrow Limits of Consumer Choice

19 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2014 Last revised: 13 May 2014

See all articles by Martin Fries

Martin Fries

University of Munich - Center for International Law

Johanna Stark

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance

Date Written: March 21, 2014

Abstract

Consumers shall be considerate and responsible, have the necessary information available and choose from a vast array of goods whatever best satisfies their needs. The ideal understanding of the European consumer relies on splendid supply and sound choice. Whereas the supply of goods and services in the Union as well as in most Member States is impressive, consumer choice in form of B2C contracts is a weak point. Sure enough, choosing contractual options and agreeing to proposed conditions has definitely become fancier in the digital age. Customers tick appealing boxes with green checkmarks and hit stylish buttons to plot a way through the conclusion of a contract. At the same time, choices have not become easier at all as traders and legislators come to know how to expertly strike the keys of choice architecture. Thus, how much of contemporary consumer choice does in fact match the ideal of considerate and responsible decisions? Examining three examples of how relevant information is presented to consumers in order to contribute to their “empowerment”, we come to the conclusion that the current EU consumer policies fail, at least occasionally, to take into account key lessons that cognitive psychology and behavioural law and economics have taught us over the past decades. We conclude by giving an outline of how the current strategies could be amended so as to make them more effective towards the overall goals of consumer empowerment and consumer confidence.

Keywords: Consumer Law, Consumer Choice, Terms and Conditions, Consumer Rights Directive, Consumer Empowerment, Vulnerable Consumer, Information Overload, Sales vs. Advice, Behavioral Economics

JEL Classification: K12, K40

Suggested Citation

Fries, Martin and Stark, Johanna, Buttons, Boxes, Ticks, and Trust: On the Narrow Limits of Consumer Choice (March 21, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2412541 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2412541

Martin Fries (Contact Author)

University of Munich - Center for International Law ( email )

Veterinaerstr. 5
Munich, Bavaria 80539
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.jura.uni-muenchen.de/personen/f/fries_engel_martin/index.html

Johanna Stark

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance ( email )

Marstallplatz 1
Munich, 80539
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.tax.mpg.de/en/business_and_tax_law/business_and_tax_taw_people/dr_johanna_stark.html

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