Consumer

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  • The notion of consumer is not a uniform one in the EU law, but most of those directives that can be defined as “consumer directives” rely on a “'transaction definition', according to which the consumer is a natural person who, in transactions covered by the measure concerned, is acting for purposes which are not within his trade or profession” (the sole exclusion is the Package Directive). In the Directive on Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts, consumers are indeed defined by art. 2 as “any natural person who (...) is acting for purposes which are outside his trade, business and profession”. In some cases, the status of the acquirer or the nature of the good make clear the applicability or non-applicability of the Directive, but there are also some grey areas. To understand how to treat those grey zones, we need to interpret the definition of consumer: two are the possible approaches: the function-based approach (the scope of protection is restricted to “purchases which are exclusively aimed at satisfying personal needs”); the competence-based approach (“a consumer is anyone who is in a position of technical inferiority compared to the counterpart”: “the fact that the good may be instrumental to the profession does not exclude that the status of consumer and protection should be extended to business whenever they are acting outside their field of competence”). The CJEU has adopted a function-based approach. See Unfair Contract Terms in European Law. A Study in Comparative and EC Law, pp. 70-72.