Consumers International (CI), a global federation of consumer groups, says current consumer protections will not be sufficient to uphold consumer rights in an increasingly connected Internet of Things environment. It says that a focus on data privacy and network security has shifted attention from the wider issue of “what it means to be a consumer of highly networked products and services,” and that this question needs urgent consideration.
“To date, significant decisions about the way in which new applications of connected technology will be implemented do not appear to have paid heed to the interests of consumers, or involved adequate representation,” CI claims.
“Not enough scrutiny has been given to the issue of control and agency, at the heart of which is the new relationship between consumers and providers. The pervasive nature of the technology and its component parts means it cuts across national, sectoral and legal regulation and legislation. This must be better understood in order to be able to articulate and realise consumer rights.”
CI’s conclusions come from its report: Connection and Protection in the Digital Age: The Internet of Things and challenges for consumer protection. It examines current and future applications of smart and IoT technologies; the risks and opportunities for consumers; and the extent to which existing consumer protection frameworks are able to address and remedy potential problems.
The report calls for concerted action by all bodies “tasked with acting in and advancing consumer interests” to act collectively to uphold consumer rights. “Increasing our expertise and acting globally will increase the collective influence of Consumers International and its members on standards and frameworks.”
There does not to date appear to have been much action from CI’s Australian members: ACCAN, ACCC, Choice, Consumer Affairs Victoria and the Consumers Federation of Australia. So far as we have been able to ascertain, not one has seen fit to make any mention of the report’s publication.
The report was produced with funding from the Open Society Foundations, a body founded in 1979 by George Soros to help countries make the transition from communism.