EU Consumer Law and Policy

EU Consumer Law and Policy

Elgar European Law series

Stephen Weatherill

In many respects the consumer is supposed to be the ultimate beneficiary of the process of market integration in Europe, but the EC Treaty has never included an elaborate recognition of how the EU serves the consumer interest. This highly esteemed book, now in a brand new edition, provides a comprehensive and up-to-date introduction to the subject, explaining the evolution of consumer law and policy in the EC in terms of both legislative and judicial activity.

Chapter 10: Access to Justice

Stephen Weatherill

Subjects: law - academic, consumer law, european law


THE CHALLENGE OF SECURING ACCESS TO JUSTICE In any system of consumer protection problems of securing effective access to justice loom large. Consumers are understandably reluctant to convert complaint into formal proceedings, especially where their loss is relatively small. Many consumers have only a limited grasp of the intricacies of the law. Taking legal action is in any event costly, slow and a source of stress. These problems are magnified in the cross-border environment. The detail of the law is likely to be even more unfamiliar, and the inhibitions to taking legal action all the greater. Creating an integrated market lies at the heart of EU’s objectives, but there is no intent to set aside the existence of different legal jurisdictions. This presents a challenge to the promotion of an effective system of access to justice for the consumer in Europe. Legal diversity between the Member States is reduced by the pattern of harmonization which provides the subject matter for much of this book. Although Harmonization Directives ought to act as a source of common consumer protection at national level, it is necessary to assess the effectiveness of the system for securing vindication of those legal rules. There are at least two separate elements to this inquiry. The first relates to the constitutional question of the extent to which Directives can create ‘rights’ on which individuals may rely before national courts. In so far as the Directive depends for its force within national legal orders on transposition by each Member...

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