Sustainable mobility and consumer protection
PhD student: Mrs J. de Vogel
Promotors: W. Verheyen, Prof H.N. Schelhaas
Duration: 1/10/2018 - 30/9/2022
In the last decades, attitudes towards consumption have shifted, which brought increasing concern over ecological, societal and developmental impact. Not only among the population, but also among policy makers, this subject is of growing concern. Mobility and traffic take a prominent place in many of these policy documents. Policy makers acknowledge the necessity of change and are increasingly offering strategies to support the transition to Sustainable Mobility Solutions (hereinafter: SMSs), namely Mobility-as-a-Service (hereinafter: MaaS) and Mobility Sharing. Such innovative business models are required and need to replace the current linear approach to a more circular model. SMSs need to be constructed in a way that safeguards the consumers/end users rights. The main aim of the research is to find out to what extent the existing legal consumer law framework provides consumers of and participants in SMSs the same level of protection as the level of protection provided in traditional consumer sales contracts and how such protection could be strengthened. The equivalence of rights will be researched within the SMSs for consumers of MaaS, sharing collectives, consumers sharing their mobility equipment and consumers using shared mobility equipment in order to contribute to the redesign of mobility to make a transformation to sustainable societal processes. The research question is threefold. 1) Is the current legal framework adequate to provide the same existing standard of consumer protection to users in contracts implied by the concept of MaaS under a circular economy context? 2) Is the current legal framework adequate to provide the same existing standard of consumer protection to individuals (or as a legal entity) participating in a sharing economy initiative? 3) How should current consumer legislation be adapted to provide equivalent consumer protection to consumers participating in SMSs? Evidence in current literature has resulted in ample information regarding different sustainable business models, but questions related to the impact, if any, on the consumers rights and obligations resulting from the implication of circular economy models, have not yet been addressed. As an owner of a product, the consumer has certain rights and obligations, but these rights and obligations might change with a transition to use instead of ownership. Therefore, the study will address the lacuna that exists at the contractual aspect, providing policy makers with the findings of the effects on consumers (and their protection) regarding a transition to circular mobility models. A solid private law framework can be a catalyst for circular business models, while the absence of this can have the opposite effect. Consumer rights protect consumers from threats and serious risks that they are unable to tackle as individuals, which allows consumers to make decisions on the basis of correct and reliable information and improve their welfare and economic interests. A solid framework can give the consumer/user a positive incentive to switch to SMSs. Therefore, the study contributes to a transition to circular business models, not only within the mobility sector but all sectors using circular models, resulting in a reducing effect on the pollution of the environment.