Will Emerging Technologies Outpace Consumer Protection Law? The Case of Digital Consumer Manipulation
Competition and Consumer Law Journal (2018) Vol 26, Iss 2, pp 141-181
42 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2018
Date Written: September 1, 2018
A ‘third wave’ of computing is emerging, based on the widespread embedding of processors with data handling and communications capabilities into everyday objects and environments, such as fridges, cars, fitness trackers and hairbrushes. This sociotechnical change brings with it the possibility of a disconnection between current consumer protection law and new marketing activities. The widespread digitisation of commerce has given firms an enhanced ability, not only to compile detailed customer profiles, but also to exploit consumers’ cognitive biases and individual vulnerabilities: a form of ‘digital consumer manipulation’. Opportunities for digital consumer manipulation will be increased by the widespread use of third wave technologies, enabling the availability of a greater amount of intimate and personalised data and creating additional personalised targeting opportunities. Why does this matter? Digital consumer manipulation can erode consumer autonomy, limit choice and competition, violate privacy, compromise personal dignity and subvert reasonable decision-making by consumers. This paper examines the key provisions of the Australian Consumer Law to establish its likely effectiveness in the face of digital consumer manipulation facilitated by the third wave.
Keywords: Internet of Things, eObjects, consumers, unconscionable conduct, misleading and deceptive conduct, Australian Consumer Law, ambient intelligence, ubiquitous computing, pervasive computing
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