Our vision for fair digital futures
We believe in a world where digital environments and technologies empower and protect consumers – one where innovation benefits the public interest and enables a fairer, safer and more sustainable online marketplace for people and planet.
To realise this vision, we are working to embed consumer rights into data governance, apply fair principles to digital products, prices and platforms, and to ensure that innovation is reflects consumer rights and preferences.
How do we do this?
Mobilising our Members to amplify digital consumer rights in global governance, shaping international policies and standards, and challenging businesses to ensure digital products and services are accessible, inclusive and safe.
Influencing stakeholders to address harmful digital practices, raising awareness of digital harms like automated deceptive design, discrimination and manipulation, while promoting choice, value and sustainability in digital policy.
Building partnerships to highlight the lived consumer experience of digital environments and run pilots that identify and implement meaningful protections for consumers everywhere.
Our key focus areas
Data governance and policy
Data is the bedrock of the digital economy. For consumers, effective data governance ensures that their personal data is collected and processed in compliance with their rights. Progress to achieve this has been made at the local level, but the global landscape remains a patchwork of policies.
Consumer data is also subject to transfer, whether between entities or across borders, which is essential to promote international trade and development. However, global frameworks governing cross-border flows of data are under-developed and do not adequately account for consumers’ rights. For example, there is also no mechanism to obtain redress – a basic entitlement for consumers everywhere – contributing to a lack of trust in digital environments. This has been a key issue for the G20ac Presidency in India and will likely to continue as the presidency is passed to Brazil in 23-24.
Consumers International is working at the highest level to strengthen data governance and embed consumer rights into international treaties relating to data. In 2023, we joined the G7 Digital Ministerial Meeting in Takasaki, Japan, representing the consumer perspective in high-level negotiations to shape global regulation. G7 Ministers agreed to create a new body, the Institutional Arrangement for Partnerships (IAP), to bring governments and stakeholders together to operationalise ‘Data Free Flow with Trust’ (DFFT). As the G20 moves to Brazil this year we will build on our success in influencing the group to inform discussions on data governance and cross-border flow.
“In 2010, Consumers Korea was involved in bringing Consumers International’s voice into the G20 Summit declaration which included financial consumer protection. More than a decade later, Korea has passed the financial consumer protection law advocated for. We can see that for more than 10 years the global policy can be translated into national policy.” Youkyung Huh, Consumers Korea
Digital environments often feature manipulative designs, practices and content that undermine trust. An EU study found a lack of digital fairness, specifically that 97% of the most popular websites and apps used by EU consumers deployed at least one “dark pattern.” Anything that makes it harder for consumers to make independent and informed decisions goes contrary to their right to accurate information and choice and can lead to losses to individual and collective welfare and autonomy.
Consumers International is advocating for the application of robust consumer protection principles that guarantee digital fairness. With our members, we have defined guidelines for big tech and virtual economies. We work with intergovernmental organisations, academics and partners to advance thinking around manipulative digital practices, platform regulation and recommendation algorithms.
Innovation and Virtual Economies
The delineation between the physical and virtual economy is blurring. Consumers have benefited, while the digital products and services they procure, alongside the data generated from their social, commercial and physical interactions, have helped businesses and governments develop novel and improved offerings, sometimes reshaping entire industries. However, some side effects have created new risks, weakened protections and threatened the rights of people around the world.
Consumers International is working to create and shape virtual economies and redefine the consumer experience of digital and physical spaces. In 2022 we worked with partners, Cybersecurity Tech Accord and I Am the Cavalry, to lead a 400-global organisation strong call to action on baseline cybersecurity provisions for consumer Internet of Things devices. We are developing partnerships that advance models of participatory governance for virtual worlds that will ensure that future generations of consumers will have their rights and preferences protected.
Interoperability for all: cross-border consumer redress and trust
The globalised nature of the internet means that, when we access common online services, our personal data travels across borders and through a thicket of domestic laws and regulations. These laws are piecemeal in nature, which risks fragmenting the global digital economy we all rely on. There are growing calls to review and update interoperability between data regimes to remove obstacles for cross-border data flows.
Our global multistakeholder initiative, initially support by Visa, will develop an understanding of what such interoperability of data governance regimes could mean in practice for consumers. A central aspect is how interoperability would work when things go wrong. Cross-border data flows and services can be positive for consumers - but can also mean losing rights and protections, reducing trust in the internet. A one-sided approach to interoperability that focuses on removing barriers to data flows could lead to a race to the bottom for consumer rights.
We aim to shift the discussion on enabling cross-border data flows from abstract principles to operational details. Specifically, we will explore the perspective of the people affected by the transfers – as data subjects, consumers or broader stakeholders – whose trust is required for the legitimacy of international data transfers. We focus on how data rights and redress can be exercised across borders.
The project will develop:
- Definitions of interoperability of redress and data protection across borders that maintain high standards of rights across data governance regimes.
- Insights of real experiences of consumers trying to enforce their rights or obtaining redress in selected multi-jurisdiction case studies.
- Recommendations on how to operationalise redress and rights mechanisms that are interoperable across data governance regimes.
If you are a digital expert share how your objectives align with our vision and we can explore collaboration as we look to accelerate our influence globally, such as at the G7 and G20.
Participate in events that we hold and attend to hear updates from peers and experts, support and contribute to our efforts at Rightscon, Costa Rica, June 2023 and the Internet Governance Forum, Japan, October 2023 and propose a session at our Global Congress 2023.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss these opportunities.