Consumer confidence in the digital environment calls for transparency

Digital reality has evolved into a complex entity whose activities concern several parties from consumers to business and political decision-makers. Regardless of the viewpoint, the shared need for transparency in the electronic environment seems to unite many of them. The aim of transparency between the parties is to build consumer confidence and promote electronic commerce. Although there are several means to increase confidence, the responsibility for increasing confidence in the network society lies with all parties.

These themes were discussed at the first joint seminar, Transparency and Trust, held by the Office of the Data Protection Ombudsman, the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority and the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority (FICORA) on 15 November 2013. The seminar brought together players from various sectors to discuss current issues related to transparency in the information society. For example, consumers’ protection of privacy, information security, copyrights and services provided by the information society. The arrangers were pleased with the outcome of the seminar, which was a multi-faceted event leaving transparent messages.

Ms Päivi Hentunen, Consumer Ombudsman, highlighted how the problems of the digital environment are reflected on the daily life of an ordinary consumer.
“The digital environment cannot evolve without consumer confidence. Therefore, service providers must act in a transparent and responsible manner. The law, too, requires them to provide transparent and comprehensive information on the terms and features of the services they provide. It is also necessary that the consumer knows who his contract partner is and that the partner bears its responsibility through the entire contract relationship.”

According to Data Ombudsman Reijo Aarnio, data protection is the success factor of economic growth.
“This concerns network reality, in particular, where data processing must be appropriate and transparent in order to promote electronic commerce and to ensure consumer confidence. Each player in the digital environment must see to the appropriateness of its activities. Cooperation between authorities is necessary and the changing operational environment sets requirements to the steering of the players.”

FICORA’s Head of Security Supervision Jarkko Saarimäki took the floor to underline the significance of providing information on the key features of services.
“Finnish consumers and organisations must be able to freely choose the services best suited for their needs among national and international provision. However, identifying the services appropriate to needs requires that service providers provide transparent and comprehensive information on the key features of the services, and on the potential threats directed against the confidentiality of data processed in the services. On the other hand, end-users must also assess carefully what sort of protection requirements are directed to the data processed in the service.”