Max Planck Lecture Series

‘Re-imagining the Consumer; Transforming Consumer Protection Law’

Dr Stephanie Law, Associate Professor in Law, University of Southampton

Thursday, 7 July 2022, 15:00 - 16:30

Consumer protection law and consumer markets are increasingly forced to reckon with a multiplicity of challenges arising in new domains that extend beyond private law, strictly speaking, to the realm of public ordering. Confronted with novel challenges stemming from the urgency of sustainability and the environmental protection concerns of private consumption, and from digitialisation and platformisation, it is submitted that consumer protection law is ripe for revitalisation and transformation.

As the epitome of status-based regulation, the scope and substantive content of consumer protection law hinges on how the consumer is conceptualised. Engaging with the notion of the “social imaginary”, this lecture aims to establish a conceptual framework for a radical reimaging of the consumer, one that moves away from the sovereign, rational individual whose welfare maximising character pertains predominantly to the efficiency of the internal market. Instead, if the transformative power and potential of consumer protection law is to be exploited, it is submitted that the consumer should be conceived of as a socially constructed complex human, harbouring a plurality of values and characteristics that extend beyond market efficiency. It is here that the transformative potential of consumer law comes to the fore; we can, to take one example, also begin to reimagine consumer law as being concerned not only with protection through the attribution of rights but also with imposing societal obligations on consumers. This lecture – which forms part of a broader, ongoing project aiming to historicise and contextualise consumer protection and policy, in order to better understand who and what is it for – aims to identify a framework to critically unpack and reimagine the dominant concept of the consumer and consumer market(s).


Dr Stephanie Law

Dr Stephanie Law has been an Associate Professor in Law at Southampton Law School since March 2022, having joined as a lecturer in October 2019. Between 2015 and 2019, she was a Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute Luxembourg for Procedural Law and prior to joining the MPI, she held a Leverhulme Trust-funded postdoctoral researcher position at the Faculty of Law, McGill University, Montréal. She received her PhD from the European University Institute, Florence in 2014.

Stephanie teaches in the fields of international adjudication, data protection and private international law, and is engaged in research, and has published widely, in EU law and private international law. She has a particular interest in fundamental rights protections of consumers, transnational private and public regulation, and legal theory and has worked in these fields as a researcher for numerous organisations, national governments and international institutions. In the fields of consumer protection specifically, she is currently a co-PI on NoBias, an interdisciplinary, Marie Curie-funded ITN on bias and artificial intelligence, member of the Academic Research Panel of Blackstone Chambers, London, and of the UNCTAD Working Group on Consumer Protection in e-Commerce.

Venue: Max Planck Institute Luxembourg, Weicker Building, 4 rue Alphonse Weicker, 2721 Luxembourg

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