The protection of digital consumers in the midst of the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic, where people have turned to online platforms to shop, telework and connect with families and friends will top agenda at the 8th United Nations Conference on Competition and Consumer Protection (UNCTAD) slated for 19 to 23 October.
The organizer of the event said they will examine ways to better protect consumers in the digital era even as Covid-19 has accelerated the shift towards a digital world.
“Uppermost in the minds of policymakers is how to make consumer protection and competition policies fit for purpose in the digital economy. The pandemic has seen dominant online platforms benefit significantly. Stock prices and market capitalization of the world’s leading technology companies have skyrocketed,” said Teresa Moreira, UNCTAD’s head of competition and consumer policies..
UNCTAD also urged governments to consider regulation of these platforms to maintain competitive and open digital markets and better protect consumers,suggesting that legislative frameworks should address the increasing market power of the platforms to protect consumers from unfair and misleading practices.
According to the UNCTAD World Consumer Protection Map, 97 percent of the 84 countries that responded to a related survey have a consumer protection law, with 62 percent addressing issues related to e-commerce.
“Consumers must enjoy a level of protection online that is no less than offline. This may mean enacting or reviewing national policies and upgrading enforcement capacities,” added Ms. Moreira.
Another top priority is ensuring access by consumers to fair, effective, transparent and impartial dispute resolution mechanisms, particularly online.
Equally high on the agenda is the need for businesses to protect consumers’ privacy through a combination of appropriate control, security, transparency and consent mechanisms related to the collection and use of their personal data.
The UN guidelines on consumer protection remain a relevant tool for governments aiming to improve consumer protection in the digital era, and their implementation will be reviewed during the conference.