The Jean Monnet Action on “The Harmonization of European and Latin American Consumer Law” aims to train learners and to promote the development of a scientific debate with a cross-sectorial and multi-disciplinary approach, in order to provide students with a framework which is not limited to the Italian experience, but is open to other legal experiences, both at national and at sub-regional level (in EU and in Latin America).
The reference to the experience of Latin American consumer protection, as well as to the Euro-Latin American dialogue on the integration and harmonization of law, is founded on several reasons, among which: the specialized expertise on the subject of the membership of teaching staff; the absence in the Italian doctrine of an open comparison between EU-Mercosur on the subject and on the movement of the integration and harmonization of European law in other sub-regional contexts; the development of agreements between the Italian political institutions and those of Latin American countries for the reorganization of the Italian-Latin American cooperation in the field of higher education and research, in order to promote a “Science without Borders”.
The Project HELACOL aims also to enhance interest of the lawyers in the EU law and to build up the basis for a future center of European knowledge. The law derived from EU introduced into national legislations a range of new safeguards for consumers (as it happened with the Italian Consumer Code), and among other things it endowed them with important informative protections (such as pre-contractual disclosure obligations) and effective means to satisfy their interests (withdrawal rights, refund rights, special cases of ineffectiveness of unfair terms, compulsory forms of ADR in some markets…), enhancing a constant dialogue between national law and European legislation.
This dialogue covers legal science as a whole, looking to the future, towards a supranational harmonization of consumer law and a balance between ‘mandatory rules’ (which safeguard the effectiveness of the protection levels imposed by the EU) and ‘supplementary rules’ or ‘dispositive rules’ (in acknowledgment of contractual freedom as leading principle of civil law systems).
The Project HELACOL promotes the publication and dissemination of the results of academic research. Common objectives of the membership of teaching staff are the harmonization and integration of consumer law, the identification of general principles that are common to the ‘national law experiences’ of the same ‘legal system’, the reception of international regulation on contract law, the re-codification of civil law in relation to the growing autonomy of consumers’ rights.
The deepening knowledge of European legislation in the field of consumer protection, as well as the development of the law itself, induces the European jurist, and first of all law students, to a critical evaluation of the model of ‘consumer contract’. This paradigm manifests an expansive force, progressively including subcontracting agreements, and agency or banking contracts, even when none of the parts can be properly classified as a consumer.
Indeed, rather than connecting the discipline of the contract to the specific (and peculiar) relation between professional and consumer, the new paradigm of the European contract law tends to be hinged on the generic inequity of the contract forces, and thus to subvert the principle of equality and equivalence of the parties on which, conversely, national contract rules in the civil law codification of European countries were based.
The element that would have been once indicated as weakness of one party over another (an element considered typical of the ‘consumer relation’), currently gains considerable relevance in the general discipline of the contract (the so called ‘contractual asymmetry’), creating in lawyers a renewed interest on EU law and stimulating ‘European’ jurists to reflect in a comparative perspective on the application and on the limits of the new European contract law.
The goals of the HELACOL have been so far achieved by individual research of the Jean Monnet Module leader, prompting a scientific discussion of wider boundaries, which moves from the experience started in 2004 at the University of Rome ‘Tor Vergata’, due to the presence there of a large number of Latin American students and researchers (Master-ALFA network OMNEM), which over the years created a growing scientific network.
Through this network, and other more recent links provided by the teaching staff, the project HELACOL will engage others experts, coming from Italian law institutions, as well as Latin American and European universities. These scholars, together with the teaching staff, will be involved in a permanent dialogue, in a roundtable aimed at a broader discussion on HELACOL and in the publishing of a volume of proceedings.
The Jean Monnet Module HELACOL wants to promote the development of a specialized competence on a specific subject of UE law and to increase opportunities for students at European and International level. It will be considered the object of a synergistic effort involving the various courses of the Department of Legal, Historical, Economic and Social Sciences of the “Magna Graecia” University as well as the postgraduate education promoted for nearly a decade as part of the activities of the PhD in ‘Legal theory and European Economic and Juridical Order’.