A conversation with Viola Cappelli, Konrad Zweigert Scholar

October 19, 2023

Viola Cappelli is a postdoctoral researcher at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa who works in the field of private law. In her PhD thesis, for which she conducted research also at the University of Groningen and the University of Wageningen, she examined the impact of the clean energy revolution on consumer and contract law. Currently she is studying the role of private law in ensuring environmental protection and implementing the principle of sustainable development.

What is your research topic during your stay in Hamburg?

My research project is part of my overall study of the interaction between private law and environmental issues. At present I am examining the challenges posed by the impact of sustainability principles on the current structure of European consumer law in general, with the aim of developing possible legal strategies to reduce the environmental impact of the right of withdrawal in particular. The right of withdrawal is one of the cornerstones of European consumer contract law, contributing to the welfare and self-determination of individual consumers. However, the high volume of returned goods – ordered online – has significant environmental implications. The key question of my research project is whether and how it is possible to balance the need to protect the environment with the consumer's right of self-determination in the specific case of the right of withdrawal.

What made you choose the Institute for your research?

The Institute has always been committed to identifying the evolutionary paths of European private law, proposing solutions to systematise regulatory developments from a scholarly perspective. For this reason, it offers me an ideal environment to carry out my project. Taking the foundations of European consumer contract law as a starting point, I explore whether they can withstand the current social, technological and climatic challenges and how they might possibly be modernised. In Hamburg, I also have the unique opportunity to access books and resources found in the Institute's library and to discuss ideas with other visiting scholars from all over the world.

How would you describe the Institute to someone who has never been here?

I would say that the Institute is a unique place to conduct research in private law. In the midst of a vibrant international community of scholars, you can at the same time benefit from a quiet environment in which to think and write. Also, you have access to an immense wealth of books and articles, both in print and online. The sources are updated weekly so that you have access to the latest developments in real time. In addition, everyone at the Institute is very friendly and happy to provide assistance. And you have the opportunity to take part in the many events and activities organised by the Institute.

Image: © Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law / Johanna Detering

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