With the market for digital products and services is growing, the functionality of competition and consumer protection are important considerations. A report by the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA), titled ‘Kilpailun ja kuluttajansuojan kysymyksiä datataloudessa’ (Questions related to competition and consumer protection in data economy), calls attention to the availability and portability of consumers’ personal data, in particular. Collaboration between competition and consumer authorities and data protection authorities is essential in ensuring the functionality of the digital market.
When people go online and use digital services, their actions generate data that can be used to refine various products and services offered on the market. The processing of consumer data also has an effect on the operating methods and market position of companies. The FCCA’s report emphasises the fact that, alongside data protection, competition and consumer protection play an important role in data economy.
To ensure viable competition and proper consumer protection, it is important that the data be easily portable. Consumers should have the choice to move from one service to another and to port their data from one platform to another effortlessly. This also facilitates the entry of new companies onto the market.
Data can be useful to consumers, but it is important that their information be used ethically. When collecting and processing data, platform companies must take into consideration consumer rights and relevant data protection requirements. Information about services offered to consumers should be transparent and easy to understand. The development of data economy necessitates strengthening consumers’ trust through investments in consumer protection.
New kinds of operating models contribute to the blending of existing operator roles and the creation of new roles. From the point of view of consumer protection, the starting point is that a consumer’s position cannot be weaker in defect and abuse situations that involve an operator as a third party. It should be made clear to the consumer who is responsible for the service. Consumers should be told clearly whom they are entering into agreement with and who is responsible for each part of the service.
Concentrated markets and strong network effects, both typical to data economy, should not weaken competition. All companies may not have the same chances to collect and make use of data, which can be a barrier when attempting to enter a market.
The competition, consumer protection and data protection authorities need to work closely together to meet the challenges generated by data economy. Questions related to data economy can be evaluated on the basis of current competition and consumer protection regulations, but in future answers might not always be readily available. Authorities should then be prepared to interpret regulations in a new fashion and, if necessary, to bring cases to court to obtain case-law.
Questions related to consumer protection: Riikka Rosendahl, Head of Group, tel. 029 505 3171
Questions related to competition: Jarkko Vuorinen, Senior Research Officer, tel. 029 505 3790