Wednesday, 19 January 2011

A right is a right is a right is a right..., right?

Can consumers invoke fundamental rights against other private parties as they can (in their capacity of citizens) against the State? And, if so, do and should judges interpret and apply these rights in the same way as in the latter situation? These questions have a bearing on, for instance, the protection of social rights of consumers (regarding health, housing, energy supply) in relation to (monopolist) service providers. Furthermore, their answers are of importance for the protection of privacy and freedom of expression of the 'iConsumer' in relation to providers of digital services (on the special position of minors in this context, an earlier post appeared on this blog).

As regards th
e 'do'-question: A new EU Compendium on 'Fundamental Rights and Private Law', edited by Christoph Busch and Hans Schulte-Nölke (European Legal Studies Institute, Osnabrück) provides interesting insights into the practice of fundamental rights application to civil cases, based on a wide-ranging legal-comparative analysis. Aimed in particular at judges and legislators, it gives an excellent introduction to the topic and may thus inspire the further integration of fundamental rights argument in (consumer) contract law.

Talking about new books: Those of you interested in the 'should'-question are probably already (getting) familiar with Ronald Dworkin's 'Justice for Hedgehogs'. An interesting reply to his account of human rights, by Robert Sloane (Boston University), can be found here.

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