Updates

Consumer protection

2019

US civil society organisation, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), issued a letter to the US Congress Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, addressing the topic of consumer safety when using Internet of things (IoT) devices. The letter details the privacy and security concerns associated with IoT devices and urges the subcommittee to consider adopting the IoT code of practice which was issued in the UK October 2018. The letter was sent to the subcommittee in advance of a scheduled hearing in the matter of dangerous products.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) published a report on the use of misleading or aggressive retail sales practices by Canada’s large telecommunications carriers. The report identified aggressive tactics and noted that these tactics present difficulties for individuals who may be more vulnerable due to their age, disability, or language barrier, and who already face obstacles to making informed choices. Consumer and disability advocacy groups explained how these sales practices can have a disproportionately negative impact on Canadians with disabilities, who already face challenges in obtaining accessible products, services, and information.

The German development ministry proposed a legal framework that provides mandatory human rights due diligence for German companies. The initiative was welcomed by CoRa, a network for corporate accountability with more than 60 development, human rights, environmental, consumer organisations and trade unions. According to CoRA, human rights diligence cannot be protected on a voluntary basis. Businesses should mandatorily take measures to prevent activities that provoke human rights violations. Liability and appropriate sanctions are key elements to enforce human rights in this context. In addition, companies should embrace the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, and report on their risk analyses, measures of mitigation and remedies.    

The German Federal Cartel Office ordered Facebook to stop combining data from other Facebook-owned platforms such as WhatsApp and Instagram, without voluntary consent. The German regulator has given one month to Facebook to appeal its decision, which was built on a three-year investigation. According to TechCrunch, ‘despite such regulatory action, Facebook is ramping up efforts to tie users from its different platforms closer together’.

According to a report, a federal appeals court on 1 February overturned the decision by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to take broadband subsidies away from tribal residents. The broadband subsidies allow residents to obtain a US$25-per-month lifeline subsidy that reduces the cost of Internet or phone service. The FCC’s decision reached by a vote of 3 to 2 in November 2017, could not be implemented due to a stay order issued by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in August 2018. The follow-up ruling by the same court has now effectively halted FCC’s plans.

 Discussions were raised among Samsung consumers about pre-installed apps in the last few months. Many Samsung consumers noted that  Facebook’s mobile apps are pre-installed on their phones and they can not delete them. Given numerous concerns about data collecting and tracking by Facebook, Samsung   have privacy concerns. Samsung and Facebook stated that pre-installed apps are a matter of their contractual arrangements.

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