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In the 1970s and 1980s, the consumer rights movement in Europe primarily focussed on improving consumer rights by way of changing the substantive law. Moreover, from the second half of the 1980s onwards, consumer law increasingly became of interest to the European Union. In the eyes of the European Commission, consumer law was and is instrumental to the establishment and completion of the internal market. As a result of this instrumentalist view of consumer law, the emphasis in European consumer law was often put on correcting information asymmetries by imposing duties to inform on sellers and service providers, often combined with the introduction on cooling-off periods and rights of withdrawal.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, however, a new trend seems to emerge. Apart from legislation supporting the development of new markets and marketing techniques (e-commerce, distance selling and distance marketing of financial services), the attention is gradually shifting from improving consumer rights through substantive law to improving access to consumer justice.
There are at least two aspects to this latter trend. On the one hand, European policy-makers tend to promote alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, online dispute resolution, informal dispute resolution boards, arbitrational courts etc. On the other hand, following positive experience in especially the United Kingdom and the Scandinavian countries, the individual enforcement of consumer rights was supplemented by collective action schemes, either entitling (private law) consumer organisations to act on behalf of the collective of consumers, or establishing regulatory agencies in public law to do so.
This book brings together the papers presented at a 2006 conference organised by the Amsterdam Institute of Private Law (University of Amsterdam) and the Rotterdam Institute of Private Law (Erasmus University Rotterdam). The papers deal with various aspects of collective enforcement of collective consumer interests, varying from theoretical analysis of collective enforcement, the practical experiences with such instruments in several jurisdictions to the challenge posed by EC Regulation 2006/2004 on the cooperation between national authorities in cross-border enforcement issues.