Centre for the Study of European Contract Law

The ABC of Online Disclosure Duties: Towards a More Uniform Assessment of the Transparency of Consumer Information in Europe

Within the Open Research Area (ORA) funding scheme 2015 the funding was awarded, among others, to a project led by Joasia Luzak (CSECL) on “The ABC of Online Disclosure Duties: Towards a More Uniform Assessment of the Transparency of Consumer Information in Europe”.

This 3-year project will allow to conduct comparative and empirical legal research in Germany, the Netherlands, England and Poland. The research aims to develop European guidelines that national enforcement authorities (NEA) should apply to uniformly assess the transparency of disclosures. These guidelines will be drafted on the basis of insights gained from conducting: a) comparative legal research illustrating when a given disclosure is currently assessed as transparent by NEA; b) empirical legal research determining the desired and applied criteria for the transparency’s assessment.

Project summary

When European consumers buy, e.g., a computer online, the European legislator requires them to receive “clear and comprehensive” information about the trader’s option to store, process and share their data (ePrivacy Directive). Subsequently, they need to receive “clear and comprehensible” information “in clear and intelligible language” on the purchase conditions, such as their right of withdrawal or the computer´s characteristics (Consumer Rights Directive). Moreover, if they purchase the computer on credit, they need to receive “clear and concise” information on the credit terms (Consumer Credit Directive). Although EU law requires information disclosures like these to be transparent, it does not establish what counts as clear, comprehensive, intelligible or concise online disclosure. As it provides no yardstick for assessing transparency, it leaves a gap that national enforcement authorities (NEA) may fill differently.

This research aims to develop European guidelines that NEA should apply to uniformly assess the transparency of disclosures. This will allow businesses across the EU to standardise and simplify their disclosures and inform consumers more effectively. Our research team will draft these guidelines on the basis of insights gained from conducting:

  • comparative legal research illustrating when a given disclosure is currently assessed as transparent by NEA;
  • empirical legal research determining the desired and applied criteria for the transparency’s assessment.

Published by  CSECL

11 July 2016