The previous week, I participated in a debate on the Digital Markets, Competition, and Consumers Bill on behalf of my Parliamentary Group.
Despite the – in the opinion of some – rather uninteresting subject matter, the more I’ve worked on the Bill, the more I’ve recognized the significance of this legislation and some of what it seeks to accomplish.
As an illustration, Action Fraud research reveals that elderly persons in the United Kingdom lose £1 million per day to online fraud.
That is a staggering amount of money that scammers and fraudsters are stealing daily from the wallets and purses of people who are either struggling to make ends meet with their pensions or have saved for their retirement.
There has to be better protection for customers against con artists.
Respected consumer advocacy group Which? estimates that a third of people in the United Kingdom experience at least one problem with a product or service each year, at a cost of £54 billion, which is a significant burden on the economy.
It prevents that money from being spent more productively in the economy, diminishes confidence, and, in many ways, reduces the competition that we all desire.
It is essential to ensure that people can engage in the online market space with confidence, and we must recognize the state’s role in facilitating this.
No quantity of online business competition can ever make up for the government’s responsibility to protect consumer rights when necessary.
While I applaud the objectives of the bill, there are provisions that could and should be added to strengthen the protections available to consumers and the vulnerable.
The Bill falls short, for instance, because it does not expressly include an equivalent to the ‘right to redress’ enjoyed by EU citizens, which would enable consumers to receive compensation when misled by merchants.
This right to redress is an important consumer protection, and we do not want to be in a position where American consumers have less leverage than their European counterparts in this regard.
The Bill should also address “Greenwashing,” the marketing of products and services under false pretenses regarding their environmental credentials. Simply put, the bill does not specify the standards and procedures that should be followed when making environmental claims.
In February, for instance, the Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor found that a number of companies had made misleading claims regarding their plans to combat global warming and climate change.
When sustainability concerns become increasingly important to consumers when deciding where to spend their money — especially among younger consumers — it is essential that measures are taken to ensure that consumers can trust the claims made for products and are not intentionally or unintentionally misled.
Nobody has a monopoly on common sense, and there were a number of amicable discussions on how the Bill could be enhanced.
Protecting consumers from frauds and reputable businesses from the sharp practices of a minority of unscrupulous competitors is something on which we can all concur needs to be strengthened.