Nordic Consumer Ombudsmen issue a statement on consumer privacy

The Consumer Ombudsmen of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden want to secure consumer rights in the digital economy. Many consumers are unaware of the ways in which their data is being collected, processed and used.

Consumer Ombudsmen met in connection with the International Consumer Protection & Enforcement Network (ICPEN) meeting in Germany in late September. At their meeting, the Nordic Consumer Ombudsmen discussed ways in which the convergence of data protection and consumer protection should be addressed.

Data-based business models and business ideas are evolving and traders have increasing amounts of information about consumers. The Consumer Ombudsmen believe that the collection and use of consumer data for marketing purposes is becoming less transparent and more convoluted.

“The collection of consumer data is not only a privacy protection issue, but also an increasingly important consumer protection one,” says Consumer Ombudsman Päivi Hentunen.

Information is money – be careful about how you use it

Nowadays, consumers are often required to supply personal data in order to use smart phones, payment services, transport services or the social media.

“Consumers receive advertisements and deals specially tailored for them, which can be a good thing for the recipient, but it also raises a number of issues from the perspective of unreasonable contract terms and conditions. How is the data provided by the consumer used, or how are the terms of service changed? ” Päivi Hentunen continues.

The Nordic Consumer Ombudsmen are calling for closer co-operation between data and consumer protection authorities when enforcing legislation to address the challenges of the rapidly developing digital economy. When consumers exchange personal data in return for the use of services and applications, personal information becomes a commodity that, to a certain extent, can replace money. This makes it harder to compare services and whether the value of data provided by consumers reflects the value of what they receive in return. Consumers should therefore treat data as money, and think carefully about when and how much information they provide.

The Consumer Ombudsmen agreed to continue discussing data and consumer protection issues in the Nordic Consumer Ombudsmen meetings to be held in 2017.