Building a digital world consumers can trust
Gone are the days when machines like the telephone and PC took time to reach the masses. Nowadays, consumers are ready to grab the next big thing in the digital space. This is probably because invention has become the mother of necessity and not vice-versa. People today consume for different reasons, be it for their satisfaction, luxury, or simple needs. On one-hand, a knowledgeable consumer makes a wise decision regarding services and commodities; but on the other hand, often the right information isn’t provided to the consumers which can be misleading.
Many consumers are facing the real challenges in their everyday lives, including a lack of access or unsafe goods and services, and unfair practices. Hence raising awareness of consumer rights amongst consumers, businesses and governments is an important step in helping to put consumer protection in place.
CONSUMER CONFIDENCE & DIGITAL ECONOMY
Former US President John F Kennedy said on March 15, 1962:
“Consumers by definition include us all. They are the largest economic group, affecting and affected by almost every public and private economic decision. Yet they are the only important group… whose views are often not heard.” Consumer confidence and trust are central to the success of the digital economy. The rapid development of digital technology has delivered social and economic benefits for millions of consumers around the world. It has connected people within and between countries, enabled people to easily access information and services and created choice and convenience in ways that could not be imagined a generation ago.
However, the continued success of the digital economy will only be possible if further developments are not just available to all but trusted enough to be integrated into people’s everyday lives. The responsibility for ensuring that consumers’ rights are protected online, and autonomy and personal freedom are upheld, cannot be managed by one country alone; it requires collaboration across governments, international organisations and businesses. Consumers are offered protection from a variety of sources, such as legislation, industry codes of practice, standards, enforcement agencies and consumer groups. But the system is most effective when everyone is working towards common principles and goals.
Countries should agree to progress towards the development of open and complementary standards. A sound measurement of how the digital economy affects consumer trust and confidence is essential. Strong, effective, proportionate and easily accessible legal and judicial or supervisory mechanisms should exist to protect consumers from fraud and unfair treatment online and to provide sanction against abuse, technical failures and errors.Fair treatment with special attention to vulnerable Treating consumers fairly should be an integral part of the objectives, good governance and corporate culture of all digital providers, and they should be held responsible for upholding digital consumer protection. Any practices that increase the risk of harm to consumers should be avoided, with special attention given to the needs of disadvantaged groups or consumers in situations of vulnerability.
Ofcourse, Digital Education
The outright change in the mindsets of the consumers makes it mandatory for them to be educated about the digital space. Plus, education and awareness provision should complement rather than replace regulatory and legislative protection. Digital education and awareness should support consumers to develop the skills and confidence to be able to manage risks and opportunities, make informed choices, know how to get assistance and advice and take action to protect and improve their well-being and identity online.
Competition for choice
Nationally and internationally competitive markets should be promoted in order to provide consumers with a meaningful choice of digital providers, products and services and support the delivery of better prices, enhanced innovation and high service quality. To enhance consumers’ ability to easily compare and switch providers, interoperable and compatible device and software standards and rights to access and transfer data between services should be prioritised and research supported to establish best practice in this area globally.
RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Consumers are privileged to have rights and access to all those common goals and principles. However, they come with certain responsibilities.
Consumers should be concerned with securing, protecting, and asserting their rights in the marketplace while trading and transacting business to obtain fair value for goods and services. Meanwhile, consumers should not have to worry about the safety of the item they purchase, or contend with false and misleading advertising. Consumers have the responsibility to seek, to evaluate and to use available information on products and services to make sound buying decisions.
56 years to the day Kennedy called for consumer rights, and a lot has happened on the back of the inspired new generation leaders to fight for greater protections in the areas of food, finances, auto, and product safety — protections that the world enjoys today. But there are miles to go and our job is to fight to preserve these achievements and protect our hard-earned rights. Fighting the good fight together, the day will come when consumer rights will succeed.
© 2016 Sulabh Swachh Bharat. All Right Reserved