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User-friendly Private Law

Good societal governance means that the laws are user-friendly (in Dutch: hanteerbaar), that is to say: simple, fair, modern, effective and accessible. One might argue that if the laws do not meet these standards, the principle of the rule of law becomes devoid of meaning.

Research question

The research programme User-friendly Private Law focuses on a two-fold research question:

To what extent is Dutch and European private law user-friendly for each of the actors that must deal with it (businesses, natural persons, lawyers, courts, and the government as policymaker)?

Insofar as private law is not as user-friendly as it should be: How can this be improved? Who should ensure this (national or European courts or legislatures), or should this be achieved through some other means (such as self-regulation)?

It should be stressed that the focus on user-friendliness does not imply a moral stance. We do not think that user-friendliness outweighs values such as efficiency, efficacy, justice (in the sense of Einzelfallgerechtigkeit) or protection of weaker parties. We aim to investigate when the importance of user-friendliness should prevail and when it should not.

Key areas

To encourage cooperation among the various participating sub-fields (tort & contract law, property law, family law, civil procedure, notarial law and legal history), this research programme has opted for a thematic design. The key areas that will be further explored, are:

  • Modernization & Sustainability: to what extent do modern developments such as digitalization and the current demand for sustainability compel private law rules to change? And if so, what is the role of user-friendliness?
  • Effectuation of the law: what is the user-friendliness of legal proceedings and legal work processes and to what extent should user-friendliness give in to other considerations?
  • Europeanization: to what extent are the legal complications due to EU law undesirable from the viewpoint of user-friendliness and if so, what can be done about it?
  • Legal principles: what are the legal principles that have informed our present rules of private law, what is their history and what is their relevance today in the light of demands of user-friendliness?


The research programme User-friendly Private Law analyses private law from the perspective of the needs of those utilizing private law: judges, lawyers, businesses or consumers. This approach to private law has been informed by many well-known trends in present day society, such as instrumentalization, individualization, normative fragmentization, globalization and Europeanization.

All of these trends have changed our perspective on laws in general and private law in particular. It has led to the demise of the idea of private law as a body of coherent rules and has caused us to view private law as a facilitating tool in the hands of those utilizing it.

Research methods

In addressing the questions, information derived from three sources will be used: comparative legal analysis, historical methods and information from Dutch legal practice (case law, parliamentary deliberations, reports and studies by consumer watchdogs and quantitative data such as surveys and interviews).

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Last modified:04 March 2024 4.32 p.m.