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European competition law, the new e-communications framework, and the consumer in the information society: more than a virtual position?

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Free and open competition benefits consumers. The consumer may ultimately benefit from a wider range of products and more competitive prices if workable competition on the information technology market has been safeguarded. However, consumers will lose the benefits of competition if firms engage in anti-competitive practices, such as arrangements on prices, market sharing and allocation of customers. Firms must also be prevented from abusing their dominant position on the market. Abuse could arise if unfair prices or unfair trading conditions are imposed. The main goal of the EC competition regulation is to achieve a system that ensures effective competition on the internal market to improve the position of the consumer. However, a consumer who actively seeks protection under the current competition rules may end up frustrated. In general, ex ante regulation appears to be a better instrument for safeguarding consumer interests. The framework of the new electronic communication directives, which must be implemented in national legislation on 25 July 2003 at the latest, indexes ex ante regulation but is largely based on a competition law analysis. Clear obligations can be imposed to safeguard the interests of the consumer in the information society. These obligations not only relate to Internet access, but also to transparency in consumer contracts, affordable prices and dispute settlement.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Houthoff Buruma and Centre for E-law, Meijers Insitute, Leiden University, The Netherlands. Houthoff Buruma, Post bus 75505, 1070 AM, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Publication date: 2003-06-01

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