Lloyd's Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly

Book Reviews

CROSS-BORDER CONSUMER CONTRACTS. Jonathan Hill, LLB, LLM, Professor of Law, University of Bristol. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2008) xxxvi and 391 pp, plus 23 pp Bibliography and 11 pp Index. Hardback, £95.
ELECTRONIC COMMERCE AND INTERNATIONAL PRIVATE LAW: A Study of Electronic Consumer Contracts. Lorna Gillies, University of Leicester. Ashgate, Aldershot (2008) xxxiii and 223 pp, plus 28 pp Appendices and 9 pp Index. Hardback £60.
Two new books explore the various private international law issues presented by electronic commerce and the way it relates or ought to relate to contracts made by consumers. Readers of this Quarterly may consider that this subject matter is at the periphery of their field of vision, but that would be a mistake, for consumer law may well be the testing ground for legislative projects with a broader eventual scope. Though their coverage naturally overlaps, the books are strikingly different in style.
Professor Hill examines an area of the law in which everyone appears to agree that Something Should Be Done, but where the content of any such agreement is elusive. His chosen subject matter is consumer contracts and the process of dispute resolution which may follow upon one side’s disappointment with the other side’s performance. This takes him through the jurisdictional provisions and jurisprudence of the Brussels Convention and Brussels I Regulation, then through the choice of law regimes of the Rome Convention and (as it then was, proposed) Rome I Regulation: the material scope of his treatment is European law and, as this applies in the United Kingdom, English law as well. He gives specific, though not exclusive, attention to these issues as they may or should apply to contracts made by electronic means. All of this is done with his customary skill and care, in measured and accessible style. The case law, especially though not only from the European Court of Justice, is analysed in painstaking (and on occasion, painful) detail; more of this later. Not only is it useful to have all this material in a single place, rather than strewn across chapters of a book, or even separate books, but the reader will be left in little doubt that he or she may repose unquestioning trust in what is being read.
The book proceeds to examine the rather more vexed question of dispute resolution. Proceeding from the view that most consumers are daunted (Hill does not say “should be daunted”, though it is the only rational view) by the prospect of litigation, never mind litigation outside their home court, the law has made fitful and irregular provision to give consumers a helping hand. There is a passing reference to national legal mechanisms for small claims, for, when it comes to having to pursue a small claim away from home, other parts of the UK may feel as remote and alien as parts of continental Europe. More attention is given to various mechanisms put in place by the European Union, which are of use to consumers if not for their principal use. They are the mechanism for the enforcement of judgments and orders given on uncontested claims (Reg 805/2004), the procedure for the prosecution of small claims (Reg 861/2007) and the order for payment (Reg 1896/2006). Finally, there is an examination of alternative dispute resolution and its promotion, on which the legislative material is distinctly patchy.



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