Consumer advocacy in the year so far
Despite being only halfway through 2022, Consumers International and our Members have been hugely busy this year in driving forward consumer protection and empowerment on the national and global stage.
Read on for a full rundown of the campaigns we've been championing and the impact we've had in the year so far.
World Consumer Rights Day 2022
We united for World Consumer Rights Day 2022 and drew attention to key issues during our intense and impact-driven Fair Digital Finance Forum, where we engaged 600 leaders worldwide.
Together with our Members, this saw us launch:
- Our Consumer Vision for Fair Digital Finance, which sets out key questions for decision makers on building a digital financial marketplace that is inclusive, safe, data-protected, private and sustainable.
- The findings of our latest tool, the Consumer Protection and Empowerment Index, which, for the first time, presents a global assessment of how countries have implemented (and pursue) the means to build, maintain and encourage safe, fair and sustainable markets. We share more on its results and plans for development below.
- A joint statement with 11 Members across nine countries on Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) products with six action steps for regulators and governments. The call brought global attention to the issue and resulted in key change. In early June, the Australian government committed to regulation.
Accelerating Fair Digital Finance
Our Fair Digital Finance Accelerator, launched during WCRD22, brings together 40 consumer associations across low and middle-income countries to share, learn and build bridges with policy makers so that consumer needs are at the heart of regulation.
In May we rolled out our Accelerator training programme, taking 35 participants from Brazil, Ecuador, Fiji, India, Kenya, Mexico, Myanmar, Philippines, Rwanda and other countries through our training suite. Members are already using the lessons learnt, such as Consumer Council Zimbabwe, who, in June, began calling for Fair Digital Finance across the media.
Data app investigation reveals hike in price for users of the same service
In February, we carried out a consumer investigation alongside our Members into personalised pricing structures for users of dating apps. Global attention was brought to the fact that some users of Tinder Plus were being unknowingly charged up to five times more to use the same service as other users.
The investigation was reported in the media in over 18 countries and has led to business practice change, including Tinder who have begun eliminating age-based pricing in several countries.
400+ join call to action on Internet of Things (IoT)
In February, we co-launched a call to action on IoT security. Members, manufacturers and hackers representing 400 organisations called for more harmonised standards in connected devices. Since then, we have been invited to support conversations bringing together regulators in six countries and counting! To amplify our message, we promoted the call at a RightsCon 2022 session alongside co-organisers, Tech Accord.
Bringing the consumer perspective on digital rights to the stage
In addition to these campaigns, we have brought the consumer voice to a range of audiences and events, such as at Davos 2022, where we joined leading civil society organisations in a call against unchecked surveillance technology. We also joined UNCTAD’s eCommerce Week, themed ‘Data and Digitalization for Development’. Highlights include bringing the consumer voice to an opening leadership dialogue with Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General of UNCTAD and others, alongside our Member, CUTS, India. Check out the other ways we influenced discussions here.
A year on from the Food Systems Summit
Following our global advocacy statement for the UN Food Systems Summit last year, we are working with support from the Food and Agriculture Association (FAO) to ensure that consumer voices continue to be involved in food systems governance. We are assessing these pathways across three countries – Kenya, Indonesia and Ecuador. Later this year, we will unite around a global call to highlight examples of where progress has been made and where further action is still urgently needed.
Creating better food systems as cost-of-living crisis escalates
As the cost-of-living crisis escalates worldwide, Consumers International has been asked to join the United Nations Secretary General’s new Global Crisis Response Group, to help develop and support a co-ordinated response as the crisis escalates. Through this group, we will provide unique insight into the challenges facing consumers worldwide and call for measures to protect consumer access to food, energy and other basic needs.
We also brought Members together in a discussion featuring David Nabarro, Co-Lead of the Food Workstream at the UN Global Crisis Response Group to talk about the response and the ways the consumer voice can inform and ensure its success. Our Members, the Foundations of Consumers, Thailand and Consumer, New Zealand told their inspiring stories of how they have delivered change in reforming national food systems.
Empowering consumers to become agents of a green, digital recovery
In 2022, 62% of consumers say they’re willing to change their purchasing habits to reduce environmental impact but in reality, there is a major say-do gap. Our GreEnCommerce project attempts to tackle this problem: identifying the ideal level and type of sustainability information consumers need, and what policy and business interventions are needed to secure this.
We launched preliminary recommendations of this work at Stockholm +50, in a discussion with experts including Isabelle Durant, Deputy Secretary-General, UNCTAD, Christiane Rohleder, Government of Germany and Joyashree Roy, Coordinating Lead Author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 6th Assessment Report.
Supporting our Members’ work in sustainable consumption
As the climate crisis escalates, a central focus of our work is in supporting consumers to make better choices through their consumption habits. Each year, we administer two grants to our Members, funding projects which champion sustainable consumption across the world.
The Anne Fransen Fund, our oldest grant scheme, made available with funds from Consumentenbond, which supports the growth of consumer organisations in developing countries, announced its winners in May. Five of our Members were chosen to receive funding, including ACEDO, Cape Verde, whose ambitious vision will see a Financial Office created to guide customers towards making conscious, sustainable decisions.
In July, we announced the winners of our Green Action Fund to fund projects which support consumers to make sustainable choices. This year, the Fund awarded 27 of our Members with grants to carry out diverse projects such as tackling plastic pollution in Benin and supporting environmental school garden schemes in Cape Verde.
Consumer Protection and Empowerment Index
Launched for WCRD 2022, the Index is based on five core areas and 100 indicators and provides a unique insight into protection and empowerment measures across 80 countries. Worryingly, its initial results have demonstrated how much work needs to be done - with the average global score for the Index at just 53/100.
So far, we have shared the findings of the Index with global leaders and policymakers at international forums such as Davos, UNCTAD’s Sixth Session of the IGE, and Stockholm +50. In the year ahead, we will build on the tool in consultation with Members and others, launching a public version to drive forward greater global protection for consumers.
Putting the spotlight on consumer protection at UNCTAD
In July, we played an influential role at the Sixth Session of UNCTAD’s Intergovernmental Group of Experts (IGE) on Consumer Protection Law and Policy.
With e-commerce transactions being a default option for many consumer purchases worldwide, we brought our concerns around online product safety to the discussion, highlighting the solid recommendations of our Online Product Guidelines, developed with our Members, Which? UK and VZBV, Germany.
In our discussions, we also raised awareness on protecting vulnerable consumers of digital financial services and following our collaboration with Member States, we helped to secure a spot for ‘Consumer Protection and the Energy Transition’ on next year’s agenda.
- United Nations Environment Programme Conference: 13 – 14 September. Our Members will be represented throughout the Conference and we will be convening expert discussion on how e-commerce platforms can help to nudge consumers towards more sustainable goods and services.
- A global call one year on from the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS): October – date TBC. We will unite stakeholders and highlight global examples of the progress made on UNFSS commitments and where further action is still urgently needed.
- COP27: 07 – 18 November. Once again, we will ensure the consumer voice is appreciated, heard and influential as COP27 ensues in Egypt this November.