Choice and competition
Policy actions sorted A-Z.
Policy actions sorted A-Z.
Products that meet certain requirements of transparency, privacy and security are awarded a certification mark so that people know they can trust the product.
European Union: EuroPriSe is a privacy seal for organisations in the EU.
United Kingdom: The Information Commissioners Office is developing their own privacy seal that will be awarded by other organisations.
United Kingdom: BSI, known for their Kitemark Symbol, created a standard for secure digital transactions. IF have proposed a transparency mark that acts as both a certificate and as a link to more information about a product.
Consumers may not understand what a seal means and this could create a false sense of confidence in a service.
Seals establish a lowest common denominator.
Seals prove expensive to audit.
Consumers are given information and the legal right to repair products they’ve bought, to reduce reliance on official service providers and to increase the longevity of consumer goods.
United States: The Copyright Office created an exemption (PDF) in laws against DRM circumvention for the purposes of repairing vehicles.
United States: The Fair Repair Act was put to the New York state legislature and would require manufacturers to supply information that could help people repair their devices. This law failed to get a vote.
iFixIt is a website that features repair tutorials for popular electronic devices.
The Restart Project organises real-world meetups where people are invited to bring in broken electronics and have them fixed by a specialist.
Documentation that outlines how products should be repaired could expose manufacturers’ trade secrets.
Self-repair may be outside the capability of non-expert consumers.
People have the right to port their data between service providers so that they have genuine choice of providers. This is distinct from “enable people to access data held about them in an agreed format” as the particular data about a consumer isn’t readily accessible to them, but a transfer between services can be made.
European Union: Article 20 of the General Data Protection Regulation gives people the right to obtain and reuse their data across different services.
United Kingdom: QR codes on utility bills contain energy usage data for quick comparison between providers.
United Kingdom: Current account switch guarantee automates the process of changing banks by automatically transferring balances and direct debit instructions.
Switching mobile phone number: Communication regulators in many countries mandate that mobile phone numbers can be transferred between different networks.
Large, interlinked services operating effectively as monopolies could block transfer of data to services with a narrower focus.
Companies could use anti-patterns that make it difficult for people to transfer data between services.
Competition authorities can act to address the issues created by digital monopolies. This prevents services from having a stronghold on a certain sector, for example Uber in public transportation, and allows emerging services an ability to compete in the market.
European Union: A report from the European Parliament suggests competition law measures to weaken digital monopolies, namely ensuring data portability so consumers can easily switch between services. It also proposes a review on guidelines for horizontal mergers, where a larger company may be prevented from taking over a smaller company in the same field.
China: Commentators suggest that the definition of “assets” needs to be broadened to include data and web traffic to help regulators address digital monopolies.
Create legislation that is compatible across national borders, to ensure consumer rights are consistent where consumers purchase goods and services in a country other than the place they live.
Worldwide: ISO 12812 creates standards for mobile-based payments to allow cross-border operation.
European Union: The EU is pushing for a Digital Single Market, applying the concept of free movement of goods and people to digital services and online business. The European Commission is proposing closer co-operation in the enforcement of consumer rights.
Create or update legislation around the fair use of copyrighted material. This should extend the personal use rights of consumers to apply to digital content. A lot of current copyright law around content is based on physical media; someone who purchases a DVD can lend it to another person. This concept of ownership is less clear with digital content.
Integration of Creative Commons licences into services like Flickr give consumers easy control over the terms of how the content they produce is shared, unlike services like Facebook and Instagram where terms and conditions set absolute rules on rights.
Internet service providers are legally forbidden from prioritising data transfer by a certain digital service to ensure consumers have equal access to all services on any connection plan.
Brazil: The Civil Rights Framework for the Internet states that “all data packages must be treated equally, without distinction of content, origin and destination, service, terminal or application”.
India: Facebook Free Basics, a zero rated service, was banned by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India based on the 2016 Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations law.
European Union: Net neutrality regulations prevent EU internet service providers from throttling access to certain websites, unless there is a technical reason for doing so.
Introduction of net neutrality legislation has met resistance from internet service providers.
Particularly in emerging markets, free access to resources like Wikipedia Zero can have educational benefits.
Government issues guidance on how it procures services, which in turn has the potential to improve the quality of consumer products available in the market.
Rules stipulate how the pricing of digital services should be presented so people know what they are buying.
United Kingdom: Price Marking Order 2004 requires that goods must have their price clearly indicated and be inclusive of VAT. The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 covers the accurate description of digital content.
United States: Some States have rules around showing pricing at point of sale. Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act generally prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce”.
Australia: Section 48 of the Australian Consumer Law specifies the “single price for the goods or services” must be shown “in a prominent way and as a single figure”.
Brazil: Brazilian internet service providers must provide at least 20% of the speed they advertise.
Many countries have advertising standards agencies that enforce rules around accuracy in advertisements.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission wants service providers to provide better broadband speed information.
The Advertising Standards Authority in the United Kingdom is making plans for reforming the way broadband speeds are advertised.
In the UK, mobile phone companies are breaking down prices show the cost of the handset and the contract. Broadband adverts must be clearer about the length of a contract and the full cost of it.
Consumer devices that require a service provider to function, like a mobile phone needs a mobile network, should not be locked into a particular provider to encourage competition between service providers and to maintain consumer choice. It may be necessary for a minimum contract period to run out, particularly for subsidised devices, but the consumer must be able to change networks after their contractual obligations have been met.
Most G20 countries have laws that prevent locking in consumers to using a particular service provider for a device.
United States: The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act allows mobile phones to be unlocked when a contract has been completed. Many other countries follow this model.
Japan: All devices sold by the three major mobile phone networks in Japan must be sold without a SIM lock when requested by the consumer, without a charge for this service.
Unsubsidised devices may cause retail prices to increase.
Lock in by stealth becomes more common.