Research Handbook on EU Consumer and Contract Law
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Research Handbook on EU Consumer and Contract Law

Edited by Christian Twigg-Flesner

Research Handbook on EU Consumer and Contract Law takes stock of the evolution of this fascinating area of private law to date and identifies key themes for future development of the law and research agendas. The Handbook is divided into three parts: first, authors examine a range of cross-cutting issues relevant to both consumer and contract law. The second part discusses specific topics on EU Consumer Law, and the final part focuses on a number of important subjects which remain current for the development of EU Contract Law.
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Chapter 18: Consumer law enforcement and access to justice

Geraint Howells


The European consumer acquis has been built on the assumption that it is in the interests of European consumers that laws are harmonised or even made identical. The desired effects are that consumers will have the confidence to seek out the best deals in any Member State and that businesses are willing to trade across borders, competition will thus increase and consumers will indirectly gain as a result. This rhetoric is very evident in the on-going consumer sales law debate. Whether the legal rules are really the obstacle to increased Community trade is a debated point, which will not be dwelt on in this context. What does, however, seem to be missing from the European Commission's argument is any explicit warning to consumers about the risks of cross-border shopping. Of course as the Commission's objective is to promote such activity it is not surprising that it might wish to play down the risks. Nevertheless, it has taken several steps to mitigate the risks, and these measures are the subject of this chapter. Where the result of harmonisation is that traders feel comfortable establishing themselves in more Member States, consumers face no additional risks created by the internal market. The trading practices and contracts entered into are regulated at national level in the same way as any other domestic contracts.

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