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Personalized commercial practices and digital market manipulation: enhancing fairness in consumer protection

Project description

How online personalised commercial strategies affect the way we shop

Enormous amounts of data about customers are available, making it possible for brands to hyper-personalise their advertising messages and purchase conditions in real time. This is a big deal for today’s marketers who understand that adding personalisation to an e-commerce experience will likely increase sales. Nevertheless, significant concerns for consumer protection are present as well. The EU-funded FairPersonalization project will explore how the use of online personalised and tailored offers affects individual propensity to consume. It will also redefine the normative thresholds and conditions under which personalised commercial practices may be deemed unfair or manipulative under EU law, laying the foundations for framing a tailored commercial practices regulation. The project’s overall aim is to rethink the interplay between regulators, enterprises and consumers, to enhance consumer protection in the digital society.


Online commerce experienced a technological revolution, shifting towards automated, data-driven technologies for the allocation and display of offers and advertisings. Tailored and targeted commercial techniques constitute a heterogeneous phenomenon, incorporating ex multis semantics and data mining stemming from artificial intelligence, auction, social network, and neuroscience analyses, to reach different degrees of personalization. These innovations provide companies with new modes to gain market advantage and to offer their products: they have the possibility to study consumers and to personalize every aspect of their consumption experience. Consumers exposed to such potential situations could end up not being able to recognize the artificial reduction of their set of choices and, eventually, to oppose to it, being unaware of the way through which such messages utilize their habits, mental models and biases to influence their behaviours. The result of these and related trends is that firms can not only take advantage of a general understanding of cognitive limitations but also can uncover, and even trigger, consumer frailty at an individual level. I will a) investigate - by conducting online and laboratory experiments - how the use of online personalized and tailored offers affects the individual propensity to consume; b) redefine the normative thresholds and conditions under which tailored commercial practices should be qualified as unfair or manipulative under EU consumer law c) assess if, given the emergence of structural changes in consumption in the information society, it is still possible to hold up the idea that consumer protection can rely on its traditional theoretical notions and appraisal dynamics or if, on the contrary, these elements call for a substantial rethinking of the interplay between regulators, enterprises, and consumers.


Net EU contribution
€ 131 679,36
1012WX Amsterdam

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West-Nederland Noord-Holland Groot-Amsterdam
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 131 679,36