14. oktober 2016

Nordic Consumer Ombudsmen to address consumer privacy

The Consumer Ombudsmen of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden have decided to step up the efforts to secure consumer rights in the digital economy. How consumers’ data is collected, processed and used may have significant effects on consumer behaviour.

Nordic Consumer Ombudsmen to address consumer privacy

In a conference in Bad Wiessee, Germany, the International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network discussed how the convergence of data protection and consumer protection should be met.During the conference, the Consumer Ombudsmen held a separate meeting where they discussed cooperation in the Nordics when privacy, data protection, and consumer protection intersect. Protection against unwanted telemarketing, emails and text messages are well established, but collection and use of data for marketing purposes is increasingly becoming less transparent and more convoluted.

– The use of consumer data is not only a privacy issue, but also an increasingly important consumer issue, says acting consumer ombudsman in Norway, Bente Øverli.

Targeted advertising can pose challenges

Data based business models evolve, and traders possess increasing amounts of information about us. Consumers are faced with having to supply personal data in order to use commonplace services, such as payment services, transport, social media and apps for cell phones.

– Consumers get advertisements and deals especially tailored to them, and it raises difficult legal issues such as different prices and unfair terms and conditions, says Øverli.

Convergence of data- and consumer protection

The fast growing digital economy requires data and consumer protection authorities to be even more co-operative when enforcing legislation.

When consumers exchange their data for getting services in return, personal information becomes a commodity that to a certain extent can replace money. This makes it harder to compare the actual costs of different services, and whether the value of what you give up reflects the value of what you get in return.

As with pricing in money, consumers should have clear information on the true costs of the products that are being marketed when personal information is what they’re being asked to give up.

Will follow up to explore areas of collaboration

The Consumer Ombudsmen  agreed that the interplay between data- and consumer protection should be the subject of further collaboration between the Nordic Consumer Ombudsmen’s offices, and will arrange for further discussions on the issue. A meeting of case handlers will take place before the next Nordic Consumer Ombudsmen’s summit.

– We are happy to be able to unite with the other Consumer Ombudsmen in order meet emerging issues in the digital economy. As markets evolve, so must enforcement of the rights of consumers, says Øverli.