Bundesministerium der Justiz und für Verbraucherschutz

DokumenttypRede | Datum21. März 2017G20 Welcome Consumer rights in the digital age

Bart Combée, President of Consumers International

Welcome and thanks to Minister Heiko Maas for making this event possible. This is the first Consumer Summit at a G20 ever, with consumer organizations from well over 50 countries present. I am very proud that we can co-host this event, together with my good friend Claus Muller and our colleagues from VZBV, today and tomorrow at world consumer rights day.
Welcome to all of you and I am sure that we can make something happen these days.

When I explain to my members, to consumers in the Netherlands that I am travelling to the G20 to talk about international cooperation, I have a very hard time to explain why working together internationally is at all useful and beneficial to those that we want to represent. I am sure we all have that problem.

There is very little confidence among the public that international solutions will bring something good to them. People feel these international talks are not about their problems, and that that it is not their people representing them. They tend to turn inward and rely on national solutions while international institutions are met with distrust. And I can understand why. The benefits of international cooperation are usually for mankind, while the disadvantages are for you. You can hardly notice an increase in trade volume, but you can be directly threatened in your income when the company you work for outsources jobs to another country.

This is a reality for all of us. And yet I am very happy and positive to be here, because I believe that as a consumer movement, we hold an important key. If there is one area where we can touch upon people’s daily lives and make a real change for the better, its consumers issues. That is where we can make very concrete that international solutions actually can help. Trade and employment are the results of growth, better fulfilling consumer nerds is the driver of it. That maken consumer nerds a good starting point forum talks.

We are all consumers so consumer frictions are a good start for talks on economic progress. Take roaming, for example. You cannot explain to consumers why they have to pay € 7,50 per MB when they are online abroad. They find it unjust and unfair. And the EU had abolished it as it is also abolishing geo-blocking, so that soon everybody can watch their favorite TV show when they are out of the country. By working together in the interest of consumers the EU has solved a very concrete and large consumer friction. So wouldn’t it be great if we could expand those successes to wider parts of the world? Other concrete benefits for consumers could include the reduction of bank costs with international transfers, clarity about where your food comes from, and of course the theme from this consumers summit: better protected and served online consumers.

If there is anything international by nature, it is the world of online commerce.

And it affects consumers all over: Well over 3 billion, or 40% of the world’s population is online now, and this number is rising fast. In the Netherlands last year online retail sales increased with 25%, making it the fastest growing part of our economy. There are enormous social and economic benefits to this but they could even be greater if we manage to solve a number of serious frictions and risks.

Just to mention a few:

  • Yearly about half a billion personal records are stolen, and dataleaks or fraud are an increasing problem for consumers. In some countries more than half of the population say they have been victim of internet fraude.
  • 72% of consumers say they have absolutely no idea of what happens with their data, who has access to it and how they can get control over their own personal data. Probably the other 28% has the same problem, but isn’t even aware of it.
  • More and more consumers shop online internationally, but where do you go when a webshop based in another continent doesn’t deliver your purchase? A recent survey by Consumentenbond, my organization showed that with around 25% of all intercontinental online purchases there was some sort of delivery of payment problem. If the webshop does not want to cooperate, there really is no place where you can effectively turn to to solve your problem. Same thing when there is a dataleak or when you are a victim of fraude.

As easy as it is to buy something online internationally, as difficult is it to set it right when you encounter a problem.

Tomorrow is world consumer rights day. So wouldn’t it be great if we can put these very concrete concerns at the table at the G20, and if we can put consumers at the heart of talks on economic progress and make real progress for consumers in the digital world.