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Errare humanum est: Financial Literacy in European Consumer Credit Law

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  • Vanessa Mak

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  • Jurgen Braspenning

    ()

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    Abstract

    Examples of financial mistakes made by consumers lend support to the view that systematic mistakes of consumers exist in the EU credit market and that service providers respond strategically to these by redesigning their products. This paper seeks to determine how existing regulation can be improved to ensure consumer protection. Using insights from behavioural economics, this paper argues that financial literacy—that is, knowledge and understanding of complex financial products and skills to navigate the financial market—as a cornerstone for European financial consumer law is problematic. Current regulation is based primarily on information provision to consumers, which should enable them to make appropriate decisions about the risks and suitability of financial products. Although behavioural economics does not necessarily require legal intervention to take other forms than the introduction of information duties, the type of intervention is dependent on the design and needs of a particular market. The EU consumer credit market, in our view, demands more than the current regulation offers in terms of consumer protection. In particular, behavioural studies reveal that consumers generally do not have a sufficient level of financial literacy in order to enable them to make informed, rational decisions. Moreover, behavioural biases have a distorting influence on consumer decision making. The law as it stands, therefore, seems ill-equipped to offer protection to consumers and to prevent them from rash and bad decision making. Reviewing existing regulation and case law, we propose that in the EU law, the Consumer Credit Directive and the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive require updating in order to offer sufficient protection to vulnerable groups of consumers who, on average, have low levels of financial literacy. Copyright The Author(s) 2012

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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s10603-012-9198-5
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Consumer Policy.

    Volume (Year): 35 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 3 (September)
    Pages: 307-332

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    Handle: RePEc:kap:jcopol:v:35:y:2012:i:3:p:307-332

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    Web page: http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=100283

    Related research

    Keywords: Financial literacy; Consumer credit law; MiFID; Consumer Credit Directive;

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    1. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S Mitchelli, 2007. "Financial Literacy and Retirement Preparedness: Evidence and Implications for Financial Education," Business Economics, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 42(1), pages 35-44, January.
    2. van Rooij, Maarten & Lusardi, Annamaria & Alessie, Rob, 2011. "Financial literacy and stock market participation," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 101(2), pages 449-472, August.
    3. John Gathergood, . "Self-Control, Financial Literacy and Consumer Over-Indebtedness," Discussion Papers 12/02, University of Nottingham, Centre for Finance, Credit and Macroeconomics (CFCM).
    4. Sandra Braunstein & Carolyn Welch, 2002. "Financial literacy: an overview of practice, research, and policy," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Nov, pages 445-457.
    5. Maarten van Rooij & Annamaria Lusardi & Rob Alessie, 2009. "Financial Literacy and Retirement Planning in the Netherlands," DNB Working Papers 231, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
    6. Natalie Ross Adkins & Julie L. Ozanne, 2005. "The Low Literate Consumer," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(1), pages 93-105, 06.
    7. Brown, Sarah & Taylor, Karl & Wheatley Price, Stephen, 2005. "Debt and distress: Evaluating the psychological cost of credit," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 26(5), pages 642-663, October.
    8. Bucks, Brian & Pence, Karen, 2008. "Do borrowers know their mortgage terms?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 218-233, September.
    9. Victor Stango & Jonathan Zinman, 2009. "Exponential Growth Bias and Household Finance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 64(6), pages 2807-2849, December.
    10. Andreas Oehler & Christina Werner, 2008. "Saving for Retirement—A Case for Financial Education in Germany and UK? An Economic Perspective," Journal of Consumer Policy, Springer, vol. 31(3), pages 253-283, September.
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