Digital Detectives: A Research Agenda for Consumer Forensics

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Table of Contents: I. Introduction. – II. Consumer law enforcement through computational investigations. – II.1. The CPC Regulation. – II.2. DSA. – III. Computational Measurements of Influencer Activity: a case study for digital enforcement. – IV. Consumer forensics: a new field for digital detectives. – IV.1. Consolidating data collection and analysis methods for consumer law. – IV.2. Classifying new forms of consumer harms. – IV.3. Developing new approaches to consumer protection. – IV.4. Exploring the legal and ethical implications of consumer forensics. – V. Conclusion.

Abstract: Effective enforcement on digital markets is one of the most essential considerations for contemporary consumer law and policy. On digital markets, traders engage in very sophisticated commercial practices that are opaque to the average consumer. Online information is necessary for the monitoring of how companies engage in legal compliance, and where public authorities should intervene. This puts a lot of pressure on public administration to develop investigation and enforcement approaches that match the different consumer harms and needs arising out of digital markets. As it is virtually impossible to police technology practices without understanding the technologies and business models behind them, public authorities need to arm themselves with the means necessary to detect digital violations. This Article focuses on the digital enforcement of consumer protection law in the European Union and proposes a new field of research focused on the investigation and enforcement of consumer violations on digital markets in the form of “consumer forensics”. In the author’s opinion, consumer forensics is the answer to the question of how consumer enforcement regulation can become future-proof. As digitalization is rapidly affecting the way in which consumers are protected on the Internet, both the substantive and procedural dimensions of regulatory effectiveness will be impacted by evidence gathering to understand and further prove the existence of new online harms. To show the potential of this topic, the Article will offer some in-depth insights from a very specific topic of administrative scrutiny, namely measuring influencer marketing activities that are relevant for consumer protection.

Keywords: consumer protection – consumer forensics – influencer marketing – digital enforcement – European private law – computer science.

European Papers, Vol. 8, 2023, No 2, pp. 647-663
ISSN 2499-8249 - doi: 10.15166/2499-8249/680

* Associate professor, Utrecht University,


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