Info 290

The Future of Digital Consumer Protection

3 units

Course Description

Digital technologies have brought consumers many benefits, including new products and services, yet at the same time, these technologies offer affordances that alter the balance of power among companies and consumers. Technology makes it easier to deny consumers access to the courts; to restrict well-established customs and rights, such as fair use and the reselling of goods; to manipulate digital fora that provide reviews of products and services; to retaliate against and/or monitor or even extort consumers who criticize them; to engage in differential pricing; to “brick” or turn off devices remotely, to cause systemic insecurity by failing to patch products; and to impose transaction costs in order to shape consumer behavior.

Fundamentally, the move to digital turns many products into services. While the law has long comprehensively regulated products under the Uniform Commercial Code and products liability regimes, artifacts and services with embedded software present new challenges. European governments are moving aggressively to establish comprehensive regulations for digital goods. But no such agenda is on the horizon in the United States.

This course will employ a problem-based learning method (PBL). Students in the course will work in small groups to generate hypotheses, learning issues, and learning objectives in digital consumer protection. Through this process we will develop a high level conception of consumer protection and its goals. We will then explore its fit in the digital realm.

Students will develop short presentations on these learning objectives to create group learning and discussion. For the culmination of the course, students will work together to generate a research agenda for the future of digital consumer protection.

Last updated:

April 4, 2017