Consumer Law for the 21st Century
Imagine a future where every purchase decision is complex as choosing a mobile phone. Will it have coverage at home and work? What will ongoing service cost? How long will the device last? Can I and may I switch providers? These are just some of the questions one must consider when a product is “tethered” — linked to the seller in an ongoing way. The Internet of Things, but more broadly, consumer products with embedded software, will be tethered, with many implications for the consumer-seller relationship. Tethered products blur the lines between goods and services by incorporating elements of physical goods, digital goods, and digital services.
The promise of new functionalities will bring consumers many benefits and consumers will want tethered products. Our project seeks to predict the pathologies that will arise from tethered products by culling examples from recent seller/consumer conflicts and by mapping out the microeconomic dynamics of tethered products. We then rethink consumer law approaches to maximize healthy competition in a tethered environment.
Chris Jay Hoofnagle is adjunct professor of information and of law at UC Berkeley. He is the author of Federal Trade Commission Privacy Law & Policy, a history of the FTC’s consumer protection efforts. He is an elected member of the American Law Institute and is a strategic and legal advisor to companies in cybersecurity and emerging technology fields.
Aniket Kesari is a Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley's Jurisprudence & Social Policy program, and will be starting his JD at Yale Law in Fall 2018. He specializes in law & economics, with research interests that lie in technology law, data science, and public policy. He is currently working on projects related to digital privacy, innovation, and consumer protection.