MEPLI and IDS team wins Commission tender

A multidisciplinary team of researchers from the UM Faculty of Law and the Institute of Data Science (Caroline Cauffman, Gijs van Dijck, Michel Dumontier, Catalina Goanta, Monika Leszczyńska, Kody Moodley and Pedro Hdez Serrano) recently won the tender JUST/2018/CONS/PR/CO01/0123 – Exploratory Study: Exploring IT/AI tools for monitoring online markets for consumer policy purposes. The aim of the project is to identify and make an inventory of IT and AI tools that are or can be made useful for online market surveillance for consumer policy development purposes and for the enforcement of consumer protection legislation. In addition, it aims to develop options and recommendations for action to integrate the use of such tools in online market monitoring for policy development at EU level for EU and national consumer policy enforcement. Do reach out to us researchers if you are building/using such tools!

 

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Robo-liability: the European Union in search of the best way to deal with liability for damage caused by artificial intelligence

Antonia Waltermann and I will be organising a debate on legal personhood for robots at the SSH Synergy conference 2019 (7 February). For a brief overview of some of the issues the event will touch upon, see the following editorial I wrote for the Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law:

Robotics is no longer a theme reserved for science fiction movies and technological research institutes. Although most of us do not yet possess a human-looking machine that takes care of our household, robots already play an important part in our daily lives, as search robots, virtual assistants such as Siri or Alexa, programmes that suggest products or services based on our previous purchases or searches etc.

It is difficult to define exactly what a robot is. The concept may refer to machines that carry out identical and repetitive actions. These types of robots have been widely used since the industrial revolution and our current law is fit for dealing with them. More problematic, however, are the robots that possess artificial intelligence (AI), enabling them to ‘learn’ from the information they are programmed with and the actions they perform, and to use this ‘knowledge’ to make decisions in subsequent cases. It is these types of robots that challenge the present legal framework, inter alia in the field of liability law.

Search engines and virtual shopping assistants may cause economic damage to certain traders, by steering potential customers to their competitors; they may affect consumers whenever their suggestions are not accurate or do not meet their needs or preferences. However, the risks and damage caused by self-driving cars or healthcare AI applications may be significantly larger.

The full editorial can be found here.

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Summary of the conference: Main issues on consumer protection & sharing economy (UOC)

In June, I gave a presentation on “Main issues on consumer protection & sharing economy” at the 14th International Conference on Internet, Law & Politics organized by Faculty of Law & Political Science at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. Here’s a summary of my presentation:

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Consumentenkoop 2016 (TvC 2018) – available in Dutch

Deze kroniek geeft een overzicht van de belangrijkste tendensen in de rechtspraak betreffende de consumentenkoop tijdens het jaar 2016. In de eerste plaats wordt het arrest Wathelet van het Hof van Justitie besproken. Vervolgens wordt ingegaan op de Nederlandse rechtspraak met betrekking tot de beoordeling van de conformiteit van tweedehandsauto’s en van huisdieren, inmiddels traditionele topics in de kroniek Consumentenkoop. Er wordt ook stilgestaan bij de ontbindingssanctie en de taakverdeling tussen de rechter en de partijen in het proces. Totslot volgt een korte update over de stand van zaken met betrekking tot de richtlijnvoorstellen betreffende de online en andere verkoop op afstand van goederen en de levering van digitale inhoud.

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Can an agreement that was void at any moment due to a violation of competition law be revived?

Crosspost from Monard Law

When a court invalidates an agreement because the rules of contract law were violated (for example because the agreement was concluded as a result of a mistake or deception), then that agreement is deemed to have never existed. It was never valid and never will be valid. Aside from a few exceptions, everything that has already been performed under the agreement must be undone. If an agreement is invalidated for violation of competition law, the consequences are less clear.

It is possible that at the time of concluding a contract the agreement is already in violation of Belgian and/or European competition law because, for example, a producer imposes minimum selling prices on a distributor. In that case, it is also deemed that the agreement never existed.

However, it is also possible that at the time of its conclusion, an agreement benefits from a competition law block exemption, such as exists for distribution agreements, technology transfer agreements and so forth. The agreement is then deemed not to be in conflict with Belgian or European competition law.

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