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Professor Christian Twigg-Flesner joins AHRC grant for Smart Technologies Project
The project “From Smart Technologies to Smart Consumer Laws” will be a comparative legal analysis of how the legal issues created by the internet of things (connected devices) could be addressed in UK and German consumer law respectively.
It is funded under the ‘AHRC-DFG UK/German Funding Initiative in the Humanities’ and will run for a duration of three years.
Professor Christian Twigg-Flesner, the UK-based Co-Investigator for this project will work alongside the UK-based Principal Investigator (PI) Dr Guido Noto La Diega, Associate Professor at the University of Stirling, the German PI Professor Christoph Busch from the University of Osnabrück, and the German Co-Investigator Professor Louisa Specht-Riemenschneider from the University of Bonn.
This core project team will be supported by an advisory board comprising leading UK and German scholars in the field of consumer and/or digital law.
The project will work on the basis of selected use cases, focusing on smart homes, wearables, and connected cars. It first seeks to explore the prevailing business models and technologies in the consumer-focused Internet of Things (IoT). The second objective, building on the first, is to identify the key consumer issues created by these business models, with a particular focus on the terms and conditions, privacy policies and end-user licence agreements of key IoT consumer products. The third objective is to evaluate the current regulatory framework for the consumer IoT. This will mostly be an analysis of the relevant UK and German consumer laws, with a view to identifying the extent to which these laws are capable of addressing the consumer issues previously identified. Our final objective is to then develop proposals for law reform to ensure that consumer law remains fit for smart technologies.
The funding will support the core research team, who will meet at various points throughout the project duration. There will also be several workshops with external participants from both industry and academia to inform our work. The project funding has also supported the appointment of two Post-Doc positions, one at Stirling and another at Bonn, and the project will also include doctoral students in Germany. The final product will be a book which brings together all of our findings, and there should also be at least two journal articles in peer-reviewed journals.
The UK-German perspective on this topic is particularly important since the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. For the last 3 decades, the bulk of consumer law was developed at the EU level and then implemented into the nationals laws. Since the UK announced its decision to withdraw, it has refrained from implementing very recent EU measures in the consumer law field, particularly those concerned with the digital economy. In contrast, Germany continues to implement all the relevant EU directives. The UK might have greater flexibility to develop tailored consumer laws to address the novel aspects of the digital environment, and particularly of smart consumer technologies.