Willem van Boom


The 2008 proposal for a Directive on Consumer Rights (hereinafter: the Draft) 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 the 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 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 article addresses this issue by first analyzing the Draft's use of the generic concept of “contracts between consumers and traders”. It is argued that full harmonization of a badly delineated territory is ill-advised. Subsequently, the argumentative power of the policy considerations forwarded by the European Commission in its Regulatory Assessment Study is tested. The article concludes 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.


Article Keywords

European consumer law, full harmonization, domestic preferences, Regulatory Impact Assessment

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