On March 15, 1962, the US President John F. Kennedy called on Congress to enact legislation to protect consumer rights – he was the first world leader to formally address the issue. Since 1983 this date has been marked as World Consumer Rights Day. The consumer movement uses this day every year to mobilize action on important issues and campaigns, including digital marketplaces, plastic pollution, and fair mobile phone services. Simply put, celebrating World Consumer Rights Day is an opportunity to demand that the rights of all consumers be respected and protected, and to protest against market abuse and social injustice that undermine those rights.
As the world becomes increasingly digitalized and consumption moves online – with 61% of consumers worldwide shopping online, more often now than they were before the pandemic – the digital aspect of consumer rights is more important than ever. Tech development, from IoT devices to financial technology (FinTech) to new online marketplaces, has a huge impact on consumer rights. As Consumers International notes, digital has become the default way of working for the majority of businesses – and with it comes consumer rights issues, including data protection, privacy, and online scams.
When consumers are online, businesses collect and store data about their purchases and behaviors. This can be convenient, with companies recommending what you’re interested in, sharing discounts, and even reminding you when you need to buy a birthday present. Unfortunately, the downsides can be far more troubling. Organizations may have access to information that helps to influence your decisions, removing some of your free choice without you even realizing. Also, big caches of data – including personally identifiable information (PII) – are attractive to cybercriminals. If breached by hackers, the information stored by online outlets can put you at risk of identity theft, phishing attacks, and scams. This may to contribute to the fact that less than one-third of global consumers (29%) feel very secure when shopping online.
Knowing who has access to information about you is an important step in protecting your data. Mark this World Consumer Rights Day by checking where your information is stored – and what you can do to limit it. According to ESET’s new research into data security and financial technology, consumers around the world are not always aware of how their data is treated. Of those consumers who use free FinTech apps around the world, 50% do not know if these apps sell their data. Seemingly, consumers in different countries have vastly different attitudes to this. Brazil and the UK have the lowest levels of awareness, with over 60% of consumers in both countries not knowing if FinTech apps are selling their data (Brazil 62%, UK 63%). In contrast, far more FinTech users in the US are in the know about how free apps use their data – less than a third (31%) do not know if their data is being sold.
Knowing who has access to your data and how it is being used is a key aspect of protecting your consumer rights online. In President Kennedy’s words, consumers – both online and in store – deserve “the right to safety, the right to be informed, the right to choose, and the right to be heard.” To find out more about World Consumer Rights Day, visit the Consumers International website. For more information on ESET, how to keep your data safe online, and our global FinTech research, click here.