Engel and Stark, ‘Buttons, Boxes, Ticks, and Trust: On the Narrow Limits of Consumer Choice’

Consumers shall be considerate and responsible, have the necessary information available and choose from a vast array of goods whatever best satisfies their needs. The ideal understanding of the European consumer relies on splendid supply and sound choice. Whereas the supply of goods and services in the Union as well as in most Member States is impressive, consumer choice in form of B2C contracts is a weak point. Sure enough, choosing contractual options and agreeing to proposed conditions has definitely become fancier in the digital age. Customers tick appealing boxes with green checkmarks and hit stylish buttons to plot a way through the conclusion of a contract. At the same time, choices have not become easier at all as traders and legislators come to know how to expertly strike the keys of choice architecture. Thus, how much of contemporary consumer choice does in fact match the ideal of considerate and responsible decisions? Examining three examples of how relevant information is presented to consumers in order to contribute to their “empowerment”, we come to the conclusion that the current EU consumer policies fail, at least occasionally, to take into account key lessons that cognitive psychology and behavioural law and economics have taught us over the past decades. We conclude by giving an outline of how the current strategies could be amended so as to make them more effective towards the overall goals of consumer empowerment and consumer confidence.

Engel, Martin and Stark, Johanna, Buttons, Boxes, Ticks, and Trust: On the Narrow Limits of Consumer Choice (March 21, 2014).

First posted 2014-03-24 07:16:08

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