E-Contract Doctrine 2.0: Standard Form Contracting in the Age of Online User Participation
64 Pages Posted: 8 May 2007 Last revised: 16 Oct 2018
Date Written: 2008
The growing popularity of e-commerce transactions revives the perennial question of consumer contract law: should non-salient provisions of consumer standard form contracts be enforced? With the focus presently on an ex-ante analysis, scholars debate whether consumers can and should read standardized terms at the time of contracting.
In today's information age, such a focus might be misguided. The online realm furnishes various tools, so-called Web 2.0 applications, which encourage the flow of information from experienced to prospective consumers. The article, therefore, reframes the analysis of online consumer contracts while taking into account this new flow of information. In doing so, we draw out several typical ways in which such information flows in the online realm, while addressing the role of search engines, blogs, message boards and social networks. The article also accounts for the major challenges to the success of such information flow: the motivations of both information providers and receivers, and the accreditation of the data which might be compromised both unintentionally and maliciously.
After applying the key law and economics and behavioral law and economics insights pertaining to consumer contracts to the new dynamic created by the online environment, we conclude that this online information flow will strengthen market forces' ability to generate a fair and balanced contractual equilibrium. We accordingly provide new policy recommendations that are better tailored to deal with online consumer contracts and thus limit the need for legal intervention in the market for consumer contract terms.
Keywords: Contract Law, e-commerce, Law and economics, Behavioral law and economics, Blogs, blogosphere, Social networks, Information overload, Information flow, Consumer standard form contracts, Web 2.0, Asymmetric information, Online consumer contracts
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