European Consumer and Competition Day in Tallinn
The Estonian Consumer Protection Board and the Estonian Competition Authority jointly organised on 20 September 2017 the European Consumer and Competition Day in Tallinn "Paradigm shift in consumer and competition environment – embracing the new reality”.
The European Consumer and Competition Day in Tallinn mainly focused on information overload and its lack, causing confusion among consumers with regard to filing complaints. In order to accelerate the development of sharing economy and provide consumers with clarity, we need to establish principles that everyone can understand in a uniform manner.
Participants of the conference acknowledged that sharing economy as a modern economic model should not be hindered. However, certain ground rules need to be agreed on to promote economy and welfare of consumers. Examples of poor scenarios presented by the participants included consumers having to read dozens of pages of information on sharing economy to understand how its services operate. Yet, as Deputy Director General of the European Consumer Organisation Ursula Pachl aptly pointed out, 30 pages of complicated instructions do not provide consumers with the necessary information. The consumer wants to get an overview of the key matters in a simple language. This was also confirmed by other presenters.
The current simultaneous information overload and its lack has led to a situation where over half of European consumers are unaware who they should file complaints to – whether the legal rights of consumers apply or nobody has the right to submit a claim. Antonia Fokkema from the European Commission said that we also need to establish relevant terms and definitions. Three to four years ago, sharing economy meant sharing something in a small group, such as neighbours using a lawn mower they bought together as lawn mowers are not used very often, making it reasonable to buy and upkeep them per multiple families. In this case, no regulation is needed. However, today, these processes also include third parties in the form of platforms that make such transactions possible. Thus, arrangements between neighbours have turned into services crossing the boundaries of neighbourhoods. This new framework calls for redefining the term of sharing economy as well establishing some basic rules.
Discussions and presentations also focused on data use and protection. Online traders have an immense body of information on their consumers and consumers have the right to assume their data is not violated and the conducted transactions are transparent.
It is becoming increasingly more important to avoid consumer discrimination based on algorithms, which on the one hand is a challenge for supervisors who need to increase their competence to monitor the market situation. On the other hand, however, avoiding geo-blocking promotes economic growth and provides small businesses with the opportunity to grow into global enterprises.
The European Consumer and Competition Day in Tallinn was co-funded by the European Commission.