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Optimising transparency in online contracts for economic innovation in the retail industry: Interdisciplinary research through legal analysis and empirical experiments on consumer behaviour

20th National Competition for Economic Research Grants (2021)

Commercial distribution

Senior Researcher : María Natalia Mato Pacín

Research Centre or Institution : Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.


The increasing digitization of society and the development of online technologies have led to a vast transformation in retailing. The explosive growth of online transactions of tangible goods and services, as well as the new mainstream market for digital services and content, pose a major challenge to ensuring transparency for consumers and efficiency for online retail businesses. Moreover, to assist consumers navigate through the online retail space, a wide variety of online contracts are being conducted on the Internet today in relation to the data linked to websites, apps, voice assistants, and augmented reality.

As a result of this transformation, a variety of EU and national rules affecting online contracts have emerged in recent years, addressing new issues as specialized needs for information and transparency, protection of personal data, and attention to the needs of vulnerable consumers. On the one hand, this has an immense impact on businesses in complying with a large, growing, and sometimes unclear number of legal requirements, at an increasing cost to the firms. On the other hand, it also influences consumer behavior, as increased confusion and skepticism towards complicated contracts can damage or mislead consumers’ perceptions of the companies with which they enter into the contractual relationship.

The aim of this interdisciplinary research project is to analyze the online retail contracting process from the perspective of law, consumer psychology, and marketing. By integrating the legal and marketing perspectives, the aim is to propose optimal online contract designs that are cost-effective and transparent so that retail companies benefit from increased consumer trust and loyalty. To this end, the legal framework applicable to the retail distribution sector in terms of information and consent duties will be analyzed to investigate consumer response to different contracting process models, including their subsequent purchase decisions. In doing so, we aim to derive practical implications for an improved customer relationship with retail companies in an ever-changing online space.

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