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Access_open Consumer Social Responsibility in Dutch Law

A Case Study on the Role of Consumers in Energy Transition

Tijdschrift Erasmus Law Review, Aflevering 4 2019
Trefwoorden consumer, energy transition, social responsibility, Dutch law, EU law
Auteurs Katalin Cseres
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    As our economies continue to focus on growth, competition and maximisation of consumer choice, the global increase in consumption takes vast environmental and social costs and cause irreversible harm to our climate and environment. The urgency of reducing human footprint and to diminish one of the root causes of a declining climate and environment is irrefutable. In the shift that globally has to take place, a decentralised energy system relying on more distributed generation, energy storage and a more active involvement of consumers form a crucial component of renewable energy solutions. The move from a highly centralised to a more decentralised power system involves an increasing amount of small-scale (intermittent) generation from renewable energy which is located closer to the point of final consumption. In order to steer consumption towards sustainability national governments and supranational organisations have adopted policies and corresponding legislation that address individual consumers as rational and active choice-makers who make socially responsible choices when they receive the ‘right’ amount of information. By relying on insights from modern consumption theories with contributions from sociology, this article questions the effectiveness and legitimacy of these ‘consumer-centred’ policies and laws. First, the article argues that the single focus on individual consumer behaviour as a rational and utility maximising market actor fails to take into account the complexity of consumption, which is fundamentally influenced by social norms and its broader institutional setting. Although consumers are willing to consume more sustainably, they are often ‘locked in by circumstances’ and unable to engage in more sustainable consumption practices even if they want to. Second, by relying on evidence from sociological studies the article argues that individual consumers are not the most salient actors in support of sustainable consumption. Even though the urgency of the energy transition and the critical role consumers play in (un)sustainable energy consumption is acknowledged in both the EU and its Member States, their laws and policies remain grounded on goals of economic growth with competitive economies, the sovereignty of consumer choice and wealth maximisation, instead of aiming at slower economic growth or even degrowth, reducing overall resource use and consumption levels and introducing radically different ways of consumption.
    Third, the role of law is underlined as a social institution both as a constraint on the autonomous acts of consumption, dictating the normative frameworks within which the role of consumer is defined, and as a facilitator which consumers might also employ, in order to determine for themselves particular normative parameters within which consumption can occur.
    The Netherlands, which serves as a case study in this article, has reached important milestones in its energy transition policy since 2013. Still, it remains strongly focused on economic rationality and market competitiveness. Even though various models of consumer participation exist and local consumer energy initiatives are flourishing and are recognised as key actors in the energy transition, they remain embedded in institutional, structural and behavioural settings where consumers still face challenging sociocultural barriers to sustainable practices.
    In light of these legal, political and social complexity of energy transition, the article offers a critical analysis of the current Dutch law in its broader legal context of EU law in order to answer the question what the role of (energy) law is in steering consumers towards sustainable energy consumption.


Katalin Cseres
Katalin Cseres is Associate Professor of Law, Amsterdam Centre for European Law & Governance (ACELG), University of Amsterdam.
Artikel

Access_open Consumenteninertie, mededinging en markttoezicht

Tijdschrift Markt & Mededinging, Aflevering 6 2018
Trefwoorden consumenteninertie, consumentenbescherming, complexiteit, naïviteitsdiscriminatie, informatieasymmetrie
Auteurs Annemieke Tuinstra
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    Imperfecte informatie, complexiteit, en gedragsvalkuilen van consumenten kunnen resulteren in consumenteninertie, die op zijn beurt de concurrentie verzwakt. Zeker als marktwerking nog een ander publiek belang dient of als het om een essentieel product gaat, is het zaak om de concurrentie te beschermen en eventueel aan te jagen, door inertie te verminderen. Mededingingstoezicht en consumentenbescherming en -empowerment zijn in die zin complementair. Dit artikel schetst hoe de complementariteit tussen deze rechtsgebieden anno 2018 wordt vormgegeven in de praktijk, aan de hand van voorbeelden uit Nederland en het Verenigd Koninkrijk.


Annemieke Tuinstra
Drs. A.A.M. Tuinstra is als Senior Econoom werkzaam bij het Economisch Bureau van de Autoriteit Consument en Markt (ACM). De auteur schrijft dit artikel op persoonlijke titel. De auteur dankt de redactie en collega’s bij de ACM voor enkele waardevolle opmerkingen bij een eerdere versie van dit artikel.

    The purpose of this article is to investigate whether the notion of an interest should be taken more seriously than the notion of a right. It will be argued that it should; and not only because it can be just as amenable to the institutional taxonomical structure often said to be at the basis of rights thinking in law but also because the notion of an interest has a more epistemologically convincing explanatory power with respect to reasoning in law and its relation to social facts. The article equally aims to highlight some of the important existing work on the notion of an interest in law.


Geoffrey Samuel
Professor of Law, Kent Law School, The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, U.K. This article is a much re-orientated, and updated, adaption of a paper published a decade ago: Samuel 2004, at 263. The author would like to thank the anonymous referees for their very helpful criticisms and observations on an earlier version of the manuscript.

Stephen Waddams
Goodman/Schipper Professor of Law, University of Toronto.

Willem H. van Boom
Professor of Law at the Erasmus School of Law, Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Anthony Ogus
Professor of Fundamentals of Private Law at Erasmus University Rotterdam; Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Manchester.
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