Introduction: re-shaping consumer policy in Europe enabling consumers to act?

VerfasserStrunck, Christoph

Consumer policy used to be an appendix to market integration in Europe. In the meantime the European Commission has turned consumer protection into a tool to boost the European Union's reputation. Be it new regulations on mobile phone tariffs, be it regulatory threats to energy companies: the Commission seeks to act on behalf of consumers to dilute the image of business friendly deregulation. Although there are still national paths to consumer protection it is the Commission that longs for a comprehensive policy at the European level. Is this still part of the Commission's drive for economic integration? Or is consumer policy facing its own renewal throughout Europe, with subjects like food safety, obesity or smoking as most salient issues?

This special issue of German Policy Studies sheds light on ongoing trends in European consumer protection, both at national and European level. Following Majone (1996), integration by law is the European way of regulatory politics. A lot of legal scholars agree that EC competition law and contract law have paved the way to harmonising consumer policy throughout Europe (Micklitz 2004; Stuyck 2005).

From the perspective of political science, questions on convergence turn up. Research has revealed that three models of consumer protection shape Western democracies: the protection model, the information model, and the negotiation model (Trumbull 2006). Most European countries have subscribed to the information model. It seeks to reduce informational asymmetry between producers and consumers and rests on neo-classical assumptions on consumer sovereignty (Rischkowsky/Doring 2006). Interestingly, it is the United States that has bolstered rights and legal claims as main tool of consumer protection; by and large consumer policy is still much more adversarial than in Europe (Strunck 2005). What happens at the European level might push member states towards one of those national models. It might turn them into a new one, as well. Or the whole agenda of harmonisation gets stuck and national models prevail. There is still no clear answer to that question.

Yet distinctive changes have been under way. Is consumer policy across Europe really about to be reshaped? Some pundits argue that markets have changed dramatically, not politics (Arkenstette 2005). The growing complexity of knowledge society and its markets exceeds consumers' capacities. Yet politics has not kept pace. Others hold that it is just the other way...

Um weiterzulesen


VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT