Article 47 EUCFR and Civil Courts: The Case of Arbitration Clauses in Consumer Contracts (the Netherlands vs Spain)
Posted: 29 Jun 2018
Date Written: May 28, 2018
The law of the European Union confers subjective rights on citizens, such as those they derive – in their role of consumers – from the Unfair Contract Terms Directive (93/13/EEC). Civil courts play a key role in the enforcement and protection of those rights. Article 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (EUCFR) safeguards the right to an effective remedy before a court of law for infringements of substantive EU rights. It may entail a change in perspective towards the autonomy of the Member States as regards remedies, procedures and, in particular, judicial protection under the Directive. It provides civil courts with an instrument for the assessment, (consistent) interpretation and (dis)application of both contractual clauses and procedural rules governing disputes between consumers and their professional counterparties.
The ‘proceduralized constitutionalization’ of consumer protection can be illustrated by the example of arbitration clauses, which are regulated differently in the EU Member States. In the Netherlands, (online) arbitration in consumer cases has given rise to a debate about the lack of judicial control over commercial ‘adjudication’. This will be discussed in light of the case law of the EU Court of Justice concerning unfair terms control and access to court – e.g. Asturcom (C-40/08) and, more recently, Menini (C-75/16) – as well as the groundbreaking decision in Achmea (C-284/16). The aim is to examine the function of Article 47 EUCFR at EU level and at the national level with respect to consumer arbitration and with a focus on the Netherlands and Spain. The Spanish experience can inform Dutch civil courts on how to deal with this issue.
Keywords: Directive 93/13/EEC, unfair terms in consumer contracts, civil jurisdiction, Article 47 EUCFR, effective judicial protection, arbitration clauses
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