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On 20 September 2017, the Estonian Consumer Protection Board and the Estonian Competition Authority hosted the European Consumer and Competition Day in Tallinn. The conference “Paradigm shift in consumer and competition environments – embracing the new reality” focused on the sharing economy, digital platforms, new technologies and consumer behavior.
In his opening speech, Francisco Fonseca Morillo, Deputy Director-General for Justice and Consumers at the European Commission, addressed the issue of data used to influence consumer choice. In today’s digital environment, where unfair practices are much more difficult to detect, he said: “algorithm discrimination must be avoided”.
The following discussion tackled the risks and benefits of the rapidly changing consumer environment and the controversial role of the sharing economy, with the underlying question being: is it possible to find balance between economic freedom, regulation and consumer benefits?
The consumers’ perspective
According to Ursula Pachl, Deputy Director at The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), in the rapidly changing economy, the good old basic consumer rights are still relevant. The right to safety, to be informed, to redress and to choose can’t be ignored. Therefore, competition law should look into the real value of data and consumers deserve algorithms they can trust. Mrs Pachl remarked: “Let’s not give up personal data protection and privacy”.
At the end of the conference, the speakers were asked to share their ideas on how to improve consumers’ satisfaction. The answer: pragmatism, dialogue and cooperation.
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