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Consumer Protection; e-commerce; International Contracts; New Law Merchant; private ordering


The nation states provide workable contract enforcement institutions for domestic commerce. Due to a lack of international cooperation the same does not hold true when it comes to cross-border situations. Thus, the institutional organization of international commerce is characterized by its reliance on private ordering or private legal services. Many believe that the emergence of a New Law Merchant can be observed in international commercial arbitration. This trend towards the privatization of commercial law, however, is believed to be limited to the sphere of corporate actors or merchants. When it comes to the protection of weaker contract parties like consumers, self-regulation is not held to be a viable option. In fact, consumers do shop increasingly across borders when engaging in e-commerce, often without noticing. The 1999 OECD Guidelines proposed to tackle the resulting consumer protection concerns by means of co-regulation. In this article, I intend to examine the potential role of private ordering and co-regulation in the area of cross-border consumer contracts. I start with a survey of the different mechanisms of private ordering, which have developed in e-commerce. This illustrates that electronic market places fulfil an essential role in bundling different means of private ordering into what I call transnational civil regimes for consumer protection. Finally, I aim at demonstrating how states, industry, and civil society actors can jointly contribute to the establishment of a civil constitution for such regimes.