- Elgar European Law series
Chapter 7: European Private Law
7. European private law A ‘EUROPEAN PRIVATE LAW’ It seems a big jump from the subject matter of the previous three chapters to the dauntingly grand topic of European private law. But the debate is moving inexorably in this direction. In the early years of the EC’s intervention into private law one could readily treat Directives on topics such as doorstep selling and timeshare as oddities which contributed to the creation of a special set of rules governing the formation of particular consumer contracts but which had little impact on the general structure of national law. But more recent measures such as Directive 93/13 on unfair terms in consumer contracts and Directive 99/44 on consumer sales and guarantees are much more ambitious. They challenge the very notion of contractual autonomy. And although the majority of the relevant EC harmonization measures concern consumer law, there is also a group of Directives touching commercial contract law. Measures such as Directive 2000/35 on late payments in commercial transactions1 and Directive 86/653 on commercial agents2 fall outside the scope of this book, but they add to the dimensions of an EC private law shaped by the harmonization programme. Principles have emerged – most prominently, information provision but, for some commentators, building towards a broader basis of promoting fairness in the market – that provide a thematic pattern to the apparent patchwork of the EC’s legislative acquis. And so, via an emphasis on consumer contract law, has developed the increasingly vigorous subdiscipline of ‘European contract law’.3 Moreover,...
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