Standardizing Consumers' Expectations in Digital Content

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HELBERGER N, Standardizing Consumers' Expectations in Digital Content, info, V. 13, i. 6, 2011, 69

Type Article
Abstract What level of performance, functionality and safety can consumers reasonably expect

from an ebook, an online game, an MP3 fil e or apps? When applying consumer law, judges will use the benchmark of “reasonable consumer expectations” to determine whether contractual terms are fair, whether a product is in conformity with the contract or whether the consumer has been correctly and sufficiently informed. The application of the reasonable expectations test to digital content products, however, raises a fundamental problem: so far, there is hardly any agreement or default that would tell us what is “normal” in, for instance, ebooks. Ac cording to the Oxford dictionary of English, an ebook is "an electronic version of a printed book." i Does this mean that an ebook can be used the same way as an ordinary, printed book? Not necessarily. In order to be able to read an ebook, consumers must u se a computer, ebook - reader, iPad or other form of electronic hardware. Not every ebook is compatible with all pieces of reading hardware. Unlike printed books, some ebooks are technically protected against printing, copying or lending to a friend. Some eb ooks can be copied at least a few times, others cannot be copied at all. While a printed book can be “one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy”, ii ebooks are at times of a less discreet disposition. The legal and technical complexities of digital content products and the resulting lack of a clear notion of which product characteristics are still reasonable and normal in digital content can result in uncertainty for consumers and businesses. In the worst case, it can result in a lower level of protection for digital content consumers, as compared to consumers of more conventional products. This article will argue that in order to improve the protection of digital content consumers, there are situations in which some defaults for the main functionalities and characteristics of digital content products are needed. The article will then describe some possible routes to create such defaults, to conclude with a discussion of the different alternatives and suggestions for the way forward.

Topics Consumer, Contract, Interoperability, Transparency