November 16, 2011

Recent developments in Consumer Law – Week 7

While preparing my presentation about the notion of Consumer for our European Contract Law module, I came across really interesting developments in European Consumer Law. The Council has accepted a proposal for a new Directive concerning Consumer Law: PE CONS 26/11. The new Directive unifies 4 older Directives regarding the protection of the consumer, namely:

-Directive 85/577/EEC of 20 December 1985 to protect the consumer in respect of contracts negotiated away from business premises

-Directive 93/13/EEC of 5 April 1993 on unfair terms in consumer contracts

-Directive 97/7/EC on the protection of consumers in respect of distance contracts

-Directive 99/44/EC on Sale of Consumer Goods and Associated Guarantees

These Directives will be organised in a horizontal order as one new Directive.

Although there has been the possibility to adopt a new notion of consumer the new Directive sticks to the old narrow approach as defined in the Directive 93/13/EEC. But the European Parliament has proposed apparently in its version of the Directive of the 23.4.2011 to adopt a new broader notion of consumer.

This movement is now considered in the 17th preparatory note of the PE CONS 24/11. Also the DCFR tried to introduce in its article Art. I-1:105 I a broader approach to the definition of consumer.

However comparing the different movements within the European law and regarding the different notions of the Member States I wonder why the EU does not introduce a common binding notion of consumer with a regulation.

For international contracts the consumer is always protected throught the Directives. But who knows exactly when one is protected in international sales and when in national business. The people clearly have to be confused.

In France for example even a legal person can be considered as a consumer as in Germany § 13 BGB speaks about a natural person.

At the moment this area does not seem to be perfectly harmonised. Another European legal issue to tackle!

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