Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Geraint Howells, Iain Ramsay, Thomas Wihelmsson and David Kraft
Iris Benöhr and Hans-W. Micklitz* 1. Introduction There is a strong link between consumer protection and human rights, which has been increasingly recognized in international legislation during the last years. Consumer law appeared in the 1970s in response to problems engendered by mass production and market failures. Although broader markets improve competition by favouring consumer choice, they limit national states’ protective role for consumer welfare from unaccountable transactional arrangements. Growing cross-border exchanges increase complexity, leading to abusive market behaviour and new health risks for consumers because of aggressive advertising and limited access to information and justice. To counterbalance this globalization trend there have been continuous attempts to create global ethical values through new human rights.1 First declared at the international level in the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection, consumer rights are increasingly included in modern national constitutions as third generations of welfare state rights. Consumer protection has also been recently inserted at European level as a modern human rights principle in Article 38 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Although it has been generally recognized that a minimum standard of international consumer rights must be upheld, there is no clear consensus on the practical importance of a formal declaration of such rights. To many, the acknowledgement of these rights is more rhetorical than real, amounting simply to a formal acceptance of the legal instruments already in place. In the light of these criticisms, can the declaration of international human rights improve consumer protection or...
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