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The aim of this chapter is to explore how our ideas about the economy and the market shape the way in which we think about the law, as well as how ideas about the law condition our understanding of what the market “is” and what it “needs”. I argue that legal and economic discourses share a set of fundamental pre-understandings as the relation between the subject of the legal-political order and the social whole. These shared pre-understandings ensure that the law and legal discourse tend to support, rather than subvert, the tenets (if not the particulars) of socio-economic organisation. However, by uncovering this entanglement, we unearth a potentially subversive role for the law. If law and legal discourse succeed in unsettling the shared pre-understandings, and offer alternative imaginaries as to the role of the law in society, they may become a trigger for a broader social transformation.
In the first part of the chapter, I develop a theoretical account, arguing that different economic, political and legal discourses converge around shared, and historically determined, pre-understandings (social imaginaries) as to what constitutes the socio-economic whole, who can act on it, and how. I further elaborate this argument by exploring the transformations of private law as a response to different imaginaries of the economy, politics and society in the last two centuries. In the second part, I turn to European private law to show how a new socio-economic imaginary enters and settles in European consumer law and policy – exposing both the conduits and the contingency of this transformation. I conclude by discussing some of the important impacts of the new socio-economic imaginary on European private law.
This chapter takes a regionalist perspective in exploring ways ASEAN can protect and advance consumer interests regarding consumer finance. Presently, ASEAN, as an organisation, is paying relatively little attention to the opportunities and challenges presented. The chapter explores some of the ‘traditional’ issues arising at the domestic level, including lenders: charging excessive interest rates; misleading and deceiving consumers; and harassing them or engaging in illegal activity when recovering loan repayments. Emerging issues include the rise of fintech. It offers new opportunities for financial inclusion, but also presents new challenges due to the rise of non-financial institution lenders, including those operating online platforms. Lack of proper regulation of these lenders risks regional financial instability and the exploitation of low-income consumers. Given the pace and complexity of change and the increasingly borderless nature of fintech, a regional approach could best assist with developing appropriate responses. The chapter proposes that enhanced shared knowledge and more effective networking amongst key players within ASEAN would advantage the region as a whole.
What is ‘ASEAN’ exactly? Is it a collective noun for describing ten states in Southeast Asia, or is ASEAN something more than that – and if so, what? These deceptively simple questions need answering to understand what has been achieved and what is achievable within and by ASEAN for consumers. This chapter therefore examines what is meant by the so-called ‘ASEAN way’ – a term frequently adopted by key players to explain and justify ASEAN’s role and existence. It also explores the influences of the European Union’s structures and instruments on ASEAN’s use of formal governance mechanisms and its use of concepts such as an ‘economic community’ to define itself. The chapter also considers ASEAN’s meaning and purpose from a range of theoretical perspectives, including: new regionalism; game theory and reciprocity; collective action; and social networks and the networked polity. The chapter further explores ways ASEAN can become more effective in advancing consumer interests through transgovernmentalism, ‘trading up’ and legal transplantation. Some of these perspectives are adopted when examining the topics covered in the following chapters in this volume.
This chapter introduces the backdrop to the achievements and challenges experienced as ASEAN has intensified its program of harmonising minimum standards of consumer protection across Southeast Asia, especially over the last decade. A key factor outlined is economic integration both among ASEAN member states and with their wider regional and global economies. Yet diversity among member states (demographics, economic development, legal and political systems, NGOs and press freedom) can influence the timing and extent of consumer law reform and implementation in each country. The chapter ends with summaries of the scope and key lessons of the remaining substantive chapters (examining product safety regulation, consumer contracts, financial and health services, and interaction of consumer law with competition law) as well as the concluding chapter (adding proposals for enhancing more public-private ‘shared regional value’).
Consumer law and policy generally envisages that consumer interests are best advanced by prohibiting abusive marketplace practices and promoting competition. This chapter proposes the framework be sophisticated for the provision of professional health services. Arguably, universal access to health services is a basic human right. Thus, the consumer interest is best understood within a human rights and a marketplace framework. These two frameworks do not always sit comfortably together, as illustrated in this chapter. The chapter explores the impacts of ASEAN’s market liberalisation strategies upon the delivery of professional health services. One strategy involves regional mutual recognition of health qualifications. This could enhance consumer interests by increased movement of medical practitioners to areas of regional need. Conversely, it could lead them to shift from low-income countries where universal access needs are acute to countries where practitioners receive higher incomes. The chapter concludes with an examination of how ‘health tourism’ is being promoted by some ASEAN members for economic benefit. However, these apparent benefits maybe somewhat illusory.
This is the first Western-language research monograph detailing significant developments in consumer law and policy across the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), underpinned by a growing middle class and implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community from 2016. Eight chapters examine consumer law topics within ASEAN member states (such as product safety and consumer contracts) and across them (financial and health services), as well as the interface with competition law and the nature of ASEAN as a unique and evolving international organisation. The authors include insights from extensive fieldwork, partly through consultancies for the ASEAN Secretariat, to provide a reliable, contextual and up-to-date analysis of consumer law and policy development across the region. The volume also draws on and contributes to theories of law and development in multiple fields, including comparative law, political economy and regional studies.
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