Consumers in the Information Society 2013: Rights, Justice, Connection

Meeting report
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Consumers in the Information Society: Rights, Justice Connection was attended by 26 member representatives from around the world, as a platform for organisational empowerment and information exchange around the most pressing current issues that concern consumers in the digital age. These issues included the threats to consumers from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, impending upheavals in global Internet governance arrangements, and CI's proposed amendments to the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection relating to e-commerce and access to knowledge.

The first session on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) began with CI's Jeremy Malcolm presenting his introduction to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which explained how this secretive agreement will copyright and patent laws, as well as many other areas ranging from food labelling to financial services. Que Anh Pham from CUTS HRC added more information on the competition policy chapter in the TPP, followed by Luke Harrison of Consumer New Zealand who spoke on the impacts of the agreement on parallel importation. Finally in this session, Saree Aongsomwang from Foundation for Consumers, Thailand spoke on pharmaceuticals and the TPP Agreement. Together with our existing TPP resources, this provided members with a sound basis upon which to become more involved in advocacy work around the TPP.

We moved on to the topic of Internet governance, which is in the midst of evolutionary changes to give effect to a UN mandate for "enhanced cooperation" between governments and other stakeholders. Jeremy provided a detailed background to this issue and explained his recommendations of how civil society could develop a positive proposal for the democratisation of existing Internet governance structures, in his presentation on Internet freedom in a world of states. From a different perspective, Romain Houéhou from the League for Consumer Defence in Benin explained (in French) how CI and its members could engage with the ITU on consumer protection issues related to telecommunications services.

The final session was on our three sub-programme areas within the Conusmers in the DIgital Age priority issue area, which we know by the initials A, B and C - that is, Access to Knowledge (A2K), Broadband and privacy, and Consumer rights and representation in the information society. This incorporated an outline and discussion on the Consumers in the Digital Age annual workplan for 2013, as well as one presentation in each of the three areas.

Opening with the A2K area, Jeremy provided a presentation and a paper on how IPR enforcement is undermining consumer sovereignty, highlighting instances of the abuse of IPR enforcement practices and calling on the consumer movement to take a stand to uphold consumers' rights against these incursions.

Moving onto the topic of broadband, Professor S C Sahasrabudhe from CERC gave a presentation on Broadband access and QoS with his thoughts on how we can better measure the metrics of broadband access in order to effectively hold providers to account for deficiencies of service, and Kim Jai-ok also shared some impromptu notes of Consumers Korea's successes in campaigning in this area.

Finally in the "Consumer rights and representation" area, Jeremy again presented about the latest developments in CI's campaign to update the UN Guidelines for the digital age. This presentation highlighted the changes between our original 2010 A2K amendments proposed for the guidelines, with the current broader (but more compact) e-commerce amendments. Jeremy then handed over to our Australia-based expert on consumer policy, Allan Asher, who explained the current state of play of the Guidelines amendments, and moderated a discussion which set the scene very well for the following two-day meeting that would deal with the amendments to the Guidelines more generally.

Event details
Hosting institution: 
Consumers International
Event dates: 
Mon, 25/02/2013 - 09:00 - 17:00
Event location: 
New Delhi, India

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