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The Many Concepts of Social Justice in European Private Law

The Many Concepts of Social Justice in European Private Law

Edited by Hans-W. Micklitz

This insightful book, with contributions from leading international scholars, examines the European model of social justice in private law that has developed over the 20th century.

Chapter 17: Social Peace via Pragmatic Civil Rights – the Scandinavian Model of Consumer Law

Bastian Schüller

Subjects: law - academic, european law, private international law


Bastian Schüller The consumer laws in Scandinavia1 are ‘famous’ for their level of protection; some see them as a manifestation of social justice in contract law.2 However, most legal scholars in Scandinavia will repel that thesis.3 In fact it is a matter of perspective; it depends on the understanding of social justice. If we connect ‘social justice’ with meanings like ‘distribution of welfare’, ‘correcting inequalities’ and ‘paternalistic behaviour of the state’, most legal scholars and citizens of the Scandinavian states will have a hard time to confirm it; nevertheless they will admit that some of these meanings are incorporated into consumer law, at least the paternalistic motive, but they will strive to clarify that ‘social justice’ is not adequate to characterize their consumer laws. On the other hand, if we connect something like ‘a level playing field’, ‘fair results’ and ‘social peace’ to ‘social justice’, most Scandinavians will nod in agreement. In the end, there is no great difference between those two characterizations of Scandinavian consumer law: the first understanding of ‘social justice’ focuses more on the means, the second more on the ends. To make it clear, distribution of welfare is meant to level the social battleground; correcting inequalities is only a way to reach fair results; and a paternalistic behaviour of the state is aimed at securing the social peace in society. The best way to characterize Scandinavian consumer law is to describe it as a pragmatic civil right. This description symbolizes the main features that are...

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