These Shoes don't Fit! How can consumer interests be protected when consumer identities are increasingly diffuse?

The Consumer ID project breaks new ground by deconstructing the notion of the consumer as a weaker party, and by providing a basis for reconstructing consumer laws along the lines of a contextual approach to consumer protection.

While the existing framework served consumer protection goals well, the complexities of modern consumer markets influenced by digitalization, platformisation and sustainability demand a reassessment of existing regulation. This project aims to test three related hypotheses:

  1. that a consumer of digital services may require a different level of protection than a consumer in a physical store,
  2. that the regulation of the platform economy requires the introduction of a ‘prosumer’ category and rules tailored to it, and
  3. that consumers should be jointly responsible for the pursuit of ecological sustainability and that in this role, as consumer-citizens, they may have to give up some consumer protection.

Focusing on three ideal types of consumers – the digital consumer, the prosumer and the consumer-citizen – the project examines whether existing consumer laws can sufficiently protect the interests of consumers in these different contexts, and whether tailormade rules should also be developed to accommodate consumers who move to the supply side as ‘prosumers’.

It does so through a combination of comparative legal research, identity philosophy, insights from behavioural studies, and empirical research through stakeholder surveys and interviews. The project focuses on consumer laws in Europe, using Germany, France, Poland, the Netherlands and Sweden as representative systems in the EU. Findings may be transposed to other parts of the world.

The project aims to be not just about consumers, but also to involve consumers directly through online surveys, blogs, and participation in project events. The outcomes of the project will be relevant to policymakers, academics in various disciplines (law, philosophy, economics), and to consumers and businesses.