Real risk that consumer policy fails to recognise digital shift

Written by Neil Stevenson on 19 November 2015 in Comment

Legislation must allow bodies to respond to a rapidly changing consumer complaints environment

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission welcomes the publication of the new report to the Scottish Government on consumer and competition policy in Scotland, and the recommendation that a single consumer body should be created.

The report sets out a positive framework based on huge knowledge of consumer issues. But a striking feature is the absence of any real comment on online, digital or electronic matters – either products delivered to the consumer through those mediums, or forms of resolution and redress.

Millions of consumers a week are empowered to influence consumer standards and markets through the likes of TripAdvisor, and thousands resolve disputes quickly and effectively through online market platforms such as those provided by eBay. The expertise of those contributing to the report is huge, but no one obviously comes from a background in these disruptive technologies.

There is a real risk that consumer policy fails to recognise that the expectation is now often that redress is digital and immediate and that ‘official’ and user-created data will be shared side by side to inform consumer choice.

We would encourage the next phase of this work to embrace the risks and opportunities of new models beyond the traditional statutory and public sector concepts of consumer redress, and ensure legislation is permissive and open for bodies trying to respond to a rapidly changing consumer complaints environment. 

Neil Stevenson is chief executive of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission

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