Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance

ACELG research proposal discussion: "Participatory economy: the consumer-centered model of market regulation"

Dr. Kati Cseres, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam Centre of European Law and Governance

27Sept2011 13:15 - 14:15


Dr. Kati Cseres, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam Centre of European Law and Governance

The liberalization of network industries at the end of the 20th Century and the promotion of competition and regulation in market segments previously governed by the state were accompanied by the evolution of neo-liberal economic policies and the emergence of a new governance framework for economic law. The new policy and governance framework was built on a consumer-centered model of market regulation, where relevant parts of law making and law enforcement have been shifted from the state to the consuming private individual. This new economic governance model, on the one hand, granted consumers a constituent role in market regulation through processes of empowerment and on the other, promoted consumers as essential economic agents in the economic constitution of markets through law enforcement.

This new role of the consumer is strongly politicized and socially driven by focusing on the figure of the consumer citizen. The term consumer citizen has evolved in the literature as a derivative of the “economic citizen” and the “market citizen”, who is the grantee of rights and the central participating beneficiary of economic integration. In this sense consumers have gained responsibilities that accompany opportunity and power and “the capacity to influence and change law and policy through, on the one hand, representative and expert network structures of new infranational governance and, on the other hand, the market through direct action in the form of complaints, enforcement of consumer rights, redress, switching and ethical buying.” While the social-political discourse about the fundamental role consumers should fulfill in today’s market regulation has been intensive, an in-depth analysis of the existing legal rules and institutions that frame consumer empowerment and law enforcement is not available.

The proposed research is aimed at disentangling this economic rights-based concept of the consumer as participating and driving force of the economy. It will make a critical assessment of the “participatory economy”; the paradigm that consumers’ active participation in markets drive competition and significantly contribute to the well-functioning of markets as well as to the legitimacy of its legal and institutional framework.

The proposed research will explore the available legal rules (both private and public law) framing or constraining the activating role of consumers in market regulation. It will concentrate on two main channels of consumer participation: empowerment and enforcement. The research will analyze the legal and economic consequences of this shift in law and governance design. After setting out the legal framework of consumer empowerment and law enforcement, an economic analysis of the likely effects of these legal rules on people’s behaviour and incentives will be conducted. The economic analysis will incorporate the empirical findings of behavioural economics that posed relevant challenge to the assumptions of consumer sovereignty as the premise of neoclassical economics.


Dr. Kati Cseres is a lecturer of European Law at the Law Faculty of the University of Amsterdam and a research fellow, both with ACELG and in the interdisciplinary Amsterdam Center for Law & Economics, ACLE, being the joint venture between the Legal and Economics Faculties of the UvA. Her main fields of interest are competition law, consumer protection, comparative law and economics and institutional economics.

Venue and registration

Time and date: Tuesday, 20 September 2011, 13.15 – 14.15
Venue: Oudemanhuispoort, room to be announced

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