The purpose of the project is to invite experts in EU, consumer and competition law to explore the different ‘images’ of the consumer in different context of EU law; legislation, free movement and competition law. The project’s theme is inspired by the persisting questions about how many visions of the consumer there are in EU law, and whether they are consistent and sincere, or merely instrumental to the achievement of other goals. It considers whether the different types of ‘consumer’ we find scattered across EU law apt reflection of rich diversity or do they create a troublingly chaotic landscape. Discussing these questions is particularly timely a few years after the Treaty of Lisbon, which reformed Union objectives to include a ‘social market economy’, and vested the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which elevated ‘consumer protection’ to the status of a fundamental right, with a binding force. The aim of the project is to encourage discussion of the consumer-related considerations in different contexts of EU law - both where the EU sets the rules and where EU law checks the validity of public and private practices at national level - and encourage reflection on whether there are and whether there should be common assumptions, principles and trends running through different parts of EU law.
The project conference took place at St Anne’s College on 27-28 March 2014 under the auspices of the Institute of European and Comparative Law. Conference papers considered how consumers were implicated in the decision as to whether the EU has a competence to legislate under Article 114 TFEU, in particular in connection with the constitutional limits which the Court of Justice imposes on the use of this competence conferring provision, and how the consumer interest was interpreted in existing legislation, as well as how it had been defined in recent preparatory documents and in the Commission’s policy statements. While the Commission focuses mainly on ‘empowering’ consumers through free movement law and through EU legislative intervention the contributors were encouraged to discuss how to incorporate other goals beyond ‘empowerment’ within EU consumer policy. Other papers looked at the extent to which the consumer interest was the rationale behind EU free movement law, EU competition law and EU intellectual property law. The question of consumer protection was also approached from a private law perspective in the context of the emerging common European contract law.
The conference volume will be published in 2016 as Dorota Leczykiewicz and Stephen Weatherill (eds) The Images of the Consumer in EU Law: Legislation, Free Movement and Competition Law (Hart Publishing, 2016).