Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Geraint Howells, Iain Ramsay, Thomas Wihelmsson and David Kraft
Chapter 4: The Consumer and Competition Law
Angus MacCulloch* 1. Introduction The role of the consumer in competition law is a topic of considerable interest at the beginning of the 21st century. The rhetoric of many public authorities involved in enforcing the various competition rules, particularly those in Europe, is quick to invoke the interests of consumers as a guiding principle.1 The interest of the consumer is also being increasingly recognised within those organisations; DG Competition, for instance, in 2003 appointed a Consumer Liaison Officer to ensure a permanent dialogue between DG Competition and European consumers and ensure their voice is heard when DG Competition is handling individual cases or discussing policy issues.2 This chapter attempts to examine the various roles the consumer plays within contemporary competition law. This should go some way to explain whether the current focus on the consumer is simply a rhetorical device, or if it truly reflects a shift in the way that competition policy is developing. 2. Who is the ‘consumer’? It is trite to state that the consumer is the central focus of both competition law and consumer law. But such a statement does not present a particularly enlightening picture. As with many fields of legal scholarship, where two ‘families’ of lawyers use the same terminology, they often do so, often unknowingly, in completely different ways. Competition law and consumer law are no different; their shared concern for the consumer belies the divergence of their understanding of who the ‘consumer’ actually is. The divergence in the understanding of the consumer...
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