Edited by Hans-W. Micklitz, Anne-Lise Sibony and Fabrizio Esposito
Chapter 7: Who calls the tune? Stocktaking of behavioural consumer protection in Europe
In their search for increased effectiveness of policy instruments, European and national policy-makers increasingly show interest in behavioural research, as a source for insights on the impact of various policy measures on consumer behaviour. However, policy-makers rarely comprehensively follow recommendation of behavioural researchers, owing to the need to account for interests other than those of consumers or the disbelief in their applicability and effectiveness. This chapter discusses to what extent policy-makers base their policies on the findings of consumer behaviour research and whether their efforts appear to contribute to increasing the effectiveness of consumer protection measures. The author argues that it may be inappropriate to draw any conclusions as to the soundness of behavioural research as a basis for policy-making from the shortcomings of current measures allegedly relying on its findings, where such measures have implemented behavioural recommendations only partially, owing to either normative or factual reasons. Further, the author appeals for more transparency in policy-making based on behavioural insights, particularly the clarification of why policy-makers veer away from recommendations based on behavioural research. The impact that behavioural research has had in European and national policy-making is analysed in the area of consumer protection relating to sustainable and healthy consumption. Among the types of policy interventions considered in this chapter are information obligations (eco-labelling and health claims, but also their information design), measures increasing consumers’ trust (right of withdrawal and trustmarks), as well as regulatory measures (consumer education, tax policies and product bans).
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