Jane K. Winn and Mark Webber, The Impact of EU Unfair Contract Terms Law on U.S. Business-to-Consumer Internet Merchants, 62 Bus. Law. 209 (2006), https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/faculty-articles/169
European Union, information privacy, unfair contract terms
This article focuses on the application of European Union unfair contract terms law to retail Internet transactions that U.S. businesses might engage in with European consumers. It compares attitudes toward consumer protection regulation in the U.S. and the EU to provide some context within which the specific provisions of unfair contract terms law can be understood.
While many lawyers and legal academics in the U.S. who study the development of online markets are aware of the profound differences in U.S. and EU information privacy laws, the magnitude of the divergence in consumer electronic contracting law is not as widely recognized. The development of contract law on unfair terms in Europe over the last 25 years is an important change in EU contract law that has no direct counterpart in U.S. contract law.
The application of contract law on unfair terms to online transactions is not at all surprising to lawyers in the EU, but may come as quite a surprise to U.S. businesses and the lawyers who advise them if they have mistakenly assumed that cross-border variations in consumer contract law are not great. As some have learned to their detriment, it is not sufficient for businesses to simply deploy U.S. versions of their online terms and conditions in their European operations.