European Consumer Day 2018: Consumers need better protection online

How best to ensure online consumer protection: this was the focus of the 20th European Consumer Day, a joint event by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the Bulgarian Economic and Social Council, held in Sofia on 20 March.

The conference was an opportunity for experts and policymakers to discuss the new challenges to consumer protection posed by digitalisation from both a European and a national perspective. Speakers agreed that the rules on consumer rights protection had to be better applied and enforced. One of the areas where improvement was needed was consumer information on products and services. It is estimated that around 1 % of the population worldwide reads such terms and conditions, while 72% do not know what kind of information is collected about them by companies online. 

Concerns about the risks that children could face in the digital era were expressed too. Experts warned that due to growing income inequalities many children might not have a chance to gain the skills required to access a transformed labour market.

Speakers also drew attention to the free flow of data, which is particularly important for the next generation of digital services. It is estimated that the public sector would have EUR 1.4 billion in additional revenue if data localisation restrictions were removed. Today more than 44 % of the world's population is online, compared to 1 % twenty years ago. Last year, 87% of European citizens had access to the internet. (ia)