On February 19, 2021, the virtual conference "Rethinking Consumer Protection Digitally" was held. The theme of the conference was the question of how to release the as yet largely untapped potential of digital technology to achieve consumer policy objectives. This question was discussed with members of the German Bundestag and decision-makers from politics, companies and consumer organizations. Following the conference, the final report on the research project was published on February 28.
After a welcome by State Secretary Prof. Dr. Christian Kastrop from the German Federal Ministry of Justice and for Consumer Protection, the project team (Thomas Bendig, Fraunhofer Group IUK Technology, Dr. Sara Elisa Kettner, ConPolicy and Dr. Otmar Lell, ConPolicy) presented the key research findings. The resulting need for action was discussed in a first round with Dr. Volker Ullrich MP and Dr. Jens Zimmermann MP. In a second round, the views of various stakeholder groups on the topic of consumer protection technology were explored in greater depth. St Prof. Dr. Christian Kastrop commented for the German Federal Ministry of Justice and for Consumer Protection, Minister Ursula Heinen-Esser represented the Ministry of the Environment, Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Consumer Protection, North Rhine-Westphalia, Ulrike von der Lühe spoke as managing director of the Rhineland-Palatinate Consumer Center for the publicly funded consumer organizations, Dr. Daniel Halmer, founder and CEO of Conny GmbH and the wenigermiete.de portal represented the viewpoint of entrepreneurial legal-tech providers, and Christina Lang, CEO of DigitalService4Germany, presented the added value of a digital innovation process for addressing societal challenges.
The discussion showed widespread consensus that there is great potential in using digital technology for consumer policy objectives. They would represent an important building block for a pro-active consumer policy. There is no knowledge deficit, but an implementation deficit. The question was how to unleash this potential. There was also consensus that more transparency must be created in digital markets so that consumers can better recognize the extent to which their interests are being protected in digital markets. To this end, it is particularly important to ensure that customer ratings are not falsified and are reliable. There was also general support for the need for consumer protection authorities and consumer organizations to have more digital skills and digital tools. There were mixed views on the question of whether federal structures in consumer advice are in need of reform and what potential lies in the cooperation of consumer organizations with entrepreneurial legal tech providers. Christina Lang from DigitalService4Germany concluded by explaining that an open digital innovation process could help to involve consumers more closely in finding solutions, on the one hand, and make cooperation between different groups of players possible, on the other.
The results of the event were taken into account in the finalization of the final report, which was published on February 28, 2021.
More information about the project can be found here.