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Conference theme

Private law has been traditionally conceived as that part of the law which secures a sphere of positive freedom for private parties and is concerned with interpersonal justice. In contrast, market regulation has been commonly associated with a distinctive set of rules adopted for instrumental purposes, such as the prevention of market failures and distributive justice. While market regulation typically intervenes ex ante to prevent harm to individuals and the common good, private law generally operates ex post after the harm has already been suffered. Over the past several decades, however, the dichotomy between private law and market regulation has become blurred. In particular, traditional national private law, notably contract and tort law, has been viewed by the EU as an instrument for achieving market integration, leading to the emergence of legal hybrids, such as ‘European regulatory private law’ and ‘European supervision private law’. Conversely, the traditional private law discourse in national legal systems has been increasingly influenced by policy considerations, both in individual and interest-group litigation before civil courts.

These developments have given rise to many intricate questions about the relationship between private law and market regulation. What is more, the big societal challenges that we are facing today may add another dimension to our understanding of this relationship, prompting the need to re-conceptualise it and develop a common theoretical framework. Among such challenges are climate change mitigation; a switch to a resource efficient circular economy; and the ongoing digitalisation of the marketplace and societies at large (in particular, through the use of such technologies as digital platforms, Big Data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and blockchain).  

The aim of this international conference is to explore the interplay between private law and market regulation within the EU multi-level system of governance and beyond in the face of contemporary grand challenges. This topic will be discussed in the context of general private law (i.e., contract, tort, and property law), economic law/EU internal market law (including, e.g., consumer law, non-discrimination law, unfair trade law, financial services law, environmental law, and energy law), as well as other disciplines (such as law and economics and political science). Interrelated aspects to be dealt with include but are not limited to:

  • the role of private law, in particular civil liability, in addressing the grand challenges (e.g., ensuring sustainable development in the economic, social and environmental domains or striking the right balance between technological innovation and consumer/client protection);

  • the regulatory role of private actors, in particular online intermediate platforms, and contract practice in protecting consumers/clients and pursuing public interests in the marketplace;

  • the relationship between traditional private law/ex post private law adjudication and ex ante market regulation (both public and private) in the face of the grand challenges;

  • the relevance of / impact on the public/private divide; and

  • the division of responsibility between the EU and Member States in this context.

Last modified:29 October 2019 11.46 a.m.