G20 consumer summit

Strengthening confidence in the digital world

Ten recommendations for improved global consumer protection in a digital world – that is the result of the first G20-format consumer summit. The motto of the two-day event was "Building a digital world consumers can trust". Representatives of the G20 states met in Berlin to discuss the issue.

A family with laptop surfs the internet. At the G20 consumer summit, the economy is to be seen from the standpoint of consumers Photo: Getty Images/fStop

For the first time, the 20 leading industrialised countries and emerging economies have come together for a G20 consumer summit. Germany has declared the development of the digital economy and its consequences for a wide variety of fields one of the priority issues of its G20 Presidency. At the opening ceremony of the summit Federal Minister of Consumer Protection Heiko Maas stressed, "For the first time, the economy will not only be viewed from the standpoint of states, industry and top executives, but also from the stance of consumers."

The summit agenda pursued three goals: ensuring stability, enhancing viability and accepting responsibility in order to harness the onward march of digitalisation as a driver of economic growth and social development. The ability to process huge volumes of data offers major opportunities for the working world, mobility and science. The single most important precondition is that consumers trust digital service providers and products.

Dealing fairly with consumer rights around the world

If digitalisation is to bring these advantages to our everyday lives and to the working world, policies and legal frameworks must keep pace with technical developments. Achieving an appropriate balance between the use of data sets and the privacy rights of self-assured consumers is thus an important objective of the German government.

"We need rules and regulations, and they must be fair and democratic – and we need them not only at national level, but in a transnational context," said Federal Minister of Consumer Protection, Heiko Maas. The G20 will look at an internationally agreed regulatory framework for digitalisation.

Summit recommendations – and where do we go from here?

The consumer summit produced ten policy recommendations for the G20 states in order to strengthen and protect consumers in digital markets

  • Equal rights online and offline
  • Digital providers must be held to account
  • Access to affordable and good quality internet for all
  • Information about digital products and services must be easy to access and understand
  • Clear and fair terms of use
  • Digital education and awareness must be stepped up
  • Protection against fraud and abuse
  • Control over personal data and privacy
  • Effective redress and claims for damages
  • Promotion of competitive markets

The consumer summit thus launched a successful joint process involving politicians, business and civil society around the world. On 7 April the G20 ministers of digital affairs will meet in Düsseldorf; the recommendations will be considered there. The aim is to have them incorporated in the final leaders’ statement following the G20 summit in Hamburg on 7 and 8 July.

The process launched in Berlin is to be supported by an international organisation. A consumer protection in the digital world toolkit is being developed with the OECD, which will contain existing international standards and examples of best practices.

Consumers critical of the digital world

About three quarters of consumers are concerned about the protection of their personal data on the internet, according to a study produced by the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzbv). 72 per cent of the people surveyed in six G20 states were concerned that too many personal data are gathered online. Slightly more than two thirds were worried that online payments might not be secure. According to the study, 59 per cent of people believe that digital products like the smart home and driverless cars are not safe. Nevertheless two thirds stated that they essentially feel happy as consumers in a digital world.

The G20 consumer summit, which took place on World Consumer Rights Day was hosted jointly by the Federal Ministry of Consumer Protection, the world association Consumer International (CI) and the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzbv). It was attended by leaders from the realms of politics, international organisations, business and the science and research community.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017