Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Taking global action to end childhood obesity

Hannah Brinsden, Head of Advocacy & Public Affairs at the World Obesity Federation, discusses childhood obesity ahead of World Obesity Day 2016

This year World Obesity Day, which takes place on 11th October, is focusing on childhood obesity. The message is simple:  Governments need to up their game and urgently take leadership and comprehensive action to end childhood obesity.

In the last decade, childhood overweight and obesity has risen significantly around the world. Figures from 2013 show that approximately 222 million school-aged children globally are overweight or obese and our latest estimates suggest that this number is set to rise by about 20% by 2025. The impact of this is not to be underestimated. Not only does it put our children’s future health at risk but it impairs their immediate health, increasing their risk of type 2 diabetes, raised blood pressure and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This puts our already struggling health systems under more strain. This is preventable and the need for action is unquestionable, but what will it take for the required action to be taken?

Obesity is a chronic form of malnutrition and in many low- and middle-income countries it is often found alongside undernutrition. This means that nutrition policies that promote healthy growth, ensure household nutrition security and protect children from marketing and advertising of foods which have low nutritional quality will be an essential part of our efforts to end childhood obesity.

Arguably we’ve come a long way in nutrition policy over the last few decades. More and more countries are starting to implement marketing restrictions, school meal guidelines, interpretative nutrition labelling and sugar taxes. But it’s not nearly enough. While best practices can be found, very few countries have implemented the full package of multi-sectoral policies. This is despite extensive research and repeated recommendations for action in this area, most recently in the report of the WHO’s Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity

So why the resistance? Some of this will be due to a lack of capacity, in other cases a result of the prioritisation of other issues. But in most cases it comes down to an issue of political will. Not so much a lack of political will to protect the health of our children, I think you’d be hard pushed to find someone who would admit to that (!), but a lack of political will to challenge the commercial drivers of our unhealthy food environments. This leaves governments exposed to weak and voluntary policies and a leniency in favour of private interests rather than the public good. As a result, childhood obesity, and indeed adult obesity, continues to rise.

If we are to improve the global state of nutrition, strengthen national food sovereignty and reduce childhood obesity we need to consider something different and more far-reaching. If we are to have hope of change, we need to explore legally-binding frameworks to protect and support governments, particularly in regional economic areas and smaller nations. Having a legally binding mechanism would help to define minimum nutritional standards to drive commercial food markets and the operation of global food trade. Further, it would help governments to enact the policies required to end childhood obesity and would help to protect governments and citizens from commercial interests and food markets which often undermine efforts to protect health.  

So this World Obesity Day, we are calling on governments around the world to fulfil their commitments made earlier this year and to take urgent action to end childhood obesity. We must also explore the mechanisms that will be required to effectively implement such a comprehensive package of policies. A legally binding framework to protect diets isn’t about hindering governments, it’s about supporting them in taking the required steps, as difficult as they may appear, to protect the health of citizens all around the world, and to ensure a healthier future for all. 

For more information about World Obesity Day visit www.obesityday.worldobesity.org

For more information about Consumer International and World Obesity Federation’s calls for a framework to protect and promote healthy diets see here

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

How can consumers make meaningful choices in the digital world?

This week, Amanda Long, Director General of Consumers International spoke at EDPS-BEUC conference on Big Data: Individual Rights and Smart Enforcement [1]in Brussels which brought together issues of competition, consumer protection and data protection.  You can read Amanda’s full speech here. Below is an extract.
Questions of size, power, competition and choice have never been so important to our understanding of consumer protection and empowerment in the digital world.  The reach of so many big internet companies is remarkable: one in two global internet users visit Amazon on a monthly basis[2].  Google has a 71% share of the search market globally, rising to 90% in the European Union[3]. WhatsApp is the top messaging app in 109 countries, or 56% of the world.[4]

Consumers are feeling the direct impact that such large players have on their individual choices: from privacy tools disappearing from app stores[5], or WhatsApp users seeing the service bought out by Facebook, followed by changes to the terms of data sharing [6],  to the impenetrable terms and conditions which people must agree to in order to access digital services[7].  These digital services that quickly link up friends, music, events and travel are convenient and can be great fun but can also feel a bit like a lobster pot - easy to get into but very tricky to get out of.

Many multinational platforms and digital companies have become indispensable to contemporary life, offering high quality, convenient digital interactions. The data monetisation model behind some, where people ‘exchange’ information about themselves for the service with no upfront financial cost, makes for a tantalising offer.   They are the default by which consumers experience and interact with digital - the gateway to the internet if you like: we don’t search, we Google, we don’t make videocalls, we Skype.

The dominance of a small number of firms is significant because people’s choice over whether to engage or not in the digital world is becoming increasingly limited.[8]  If a few large companies effectively become gateways to all the internet has to offer, then we have to ask questions about how their size and dominance impact consumer choice, power and protection?

In the European Union, the prospects of keeping markets competitive and consumers protected are closely tied. It is suggested that competition itself can offer a protection of sorts by creating markets where companies compete for customers on the basis of value, quality and strong consumer credentials. In reality, without a range of options, and without an easy way to move between these options, it is difficult for consumers to sever ties if they are unsatisfied with a particular service. As a result, it becomes very hard to gauge whether people are happy or unhappy with services and the way companies operate. Classic ideas of competition and consumer protection are therefore stretched. 

Looking ahead to the next phase of digital consumption; the internet of things, heavy reliance on a small number of large companies could become even more important.  As well as raising privacy and security issues, the internet of things marks a major change in how we think about consumption, purchase and ownership. This is mostly because of so-called ‘hybrid’ products [9]– where physical products are owned by the customer, yet the presence of software means the device is subject to contract terms and conditions, which could put unexpected limitations on its use or make exiting a contract difficult.

Large established players already marking out territory in the internet of things will have to gather and connect data to as many objects and people as possible to make their connected services thrive. The more data points connected, the more potentially valuable the insights, so drawing in and retaining as many customers as possible will be top of companies’ agenda.  Exercising choice could get harder for consumers, as they lean towards contracting with one company as an easy way of bringing together multiple services. In practice, switching provider by exiting contracts will be time consuming or inconvenient.  Add to this the difficulties in transferring data between suppliers and lock in seems more and more inevitable.
These limitations on choosing between providers are really important for the digital age.  If competition can no longer effectively deliver consumer protection through providing choice, then we need to approach things differently.   In fact there is the real opportunity to forge a positive consumer agenda for the digital age that addresses areas of consumer concern and offers real choice over how to participate.  A complex, integral and dominating set of relationships should not put us off arguing for a fairer and more accountable digital system for consumers.
For example:
-          Data portability and system interoperability – to enable easy transfer between different services, keep different options open, and keep the value of data close to consumer control
-          Smarter use of information, and more transparency on how decisions based on data are made, not just what data is collected.  
-          Innovations that aid consumer understanding and build consumer trust and confidence such as personal data intermediaries. 

The genie is out of the bottle.  Widespread digital technology is here.  There is real potential for consumers to benefit but also a flip side presenting widespread negative consumer outcomes.  It is up to us to work together to ensure that the practices and delivery of large digital companies stand up to the scrutiny and expectations of the people whose lives are so entwined with them.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Overuse of Antibiotics, the Chilean consumer perspective

Speech by Stefan Larenas, President of  Chilean CI Member ODECU at Intelligence Squared debate: The End of Antibiotics? at New York Academy of Sciences, 14th September 2016

I am happy to speak to you on the important topic of preserving the effectiveness of antibiotics. This requires reducing antibiotic use in humans AND in food animal production. And I would like to say I speak here not just for Chilean consumers but also for other Latin American consumer organizations. My organization has been working since 2005 to research products and services and raise consumer awareness in Chile.

We are very concerned that there is very high use of antibiotics in the production of poultry and salmon, both of which are exported as well as consumed within Chile.

In poultry production, according to research by a Chilean university, colistin is the main antibiotic used in pork and poultry production preventatively. In Chile, this drug has the approval of the Agriculture and Farming Service.

We are concerned, as public health officials are all over the world, about recent data showing resistance to colistin in both food animals and in sick people. Colistin is an antibiotic doctors use when everything else fails. If resistance develops to this antibiotic too, in some situations doctors will be left with nothing to treat a sick patient.

Antibiotic use in salmon production, which is a very big industry in Chile, is also extremely high, much higher than in other countries. In Chile in 2013, more than 500,000 kilograms of antimicrobials were used in salmon production.

Whereas in Norway, which produced almost 50 percent more salmon, the industry used only 972 kilograms of antimicrobials. This is a shocking difference. The Chilean industry uses more than 900 times as much antimicrobials per kilogram of salmon as Norway does. Most disturbingly, a Norwegian company operates salmon farms in Chile. Why don’t they use the same standards and practices?

Because of our concerns, the Chilean consumer organization is participating in the Consumers International campaign, called “Antibiotics Off the Menu”, to persuade global fast food chains McDonalds, Subway and KFC to eliminate antibiotics, or at least antibiotics important in human medicine, from the food they serve in their restaurants. Consumer awareness of this problem in rising globally—in March of this year 90 consumer organizations joined this campaign.

A new report on US fast food chains, called Chain Reaction 2, is coming out next week. I understand that in North America, McDonald's has completely eliminated all medically important antibiotics in the production of the chicken it serves in its restaurants. Why, I have to ask, have they not done this in South America? This is a double standard. If their suppliers can do this in the USA, one would think they could explain to their suppliers in Chile how to raise chicken without medically important antibiotics.

Overuse of antibiotics is a global problem. Superbugs do not know national borders. When antibiotic resistance emerges in one place it travels rapidly around the world. So while action in the US, or Norway, is vitally important, we also need action in Chile and everywhere else food animals are raised. Antibiotic use must be limited to curing sickness in animals, just as it is in humans, not used to promote growth or prevent disease in factory farming conditions. We hope the nations of the world will take action on this serious problem at the UN High Level meeting on 21st September.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

What do evolving digital financial services mean for consumers? CI co-chairs ITU working group

Jami Solli, Senior Policy Adviser at Consumers International (CI) reports back on CI's involvement in the UN International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Focus Group on Digital Financial Services.

Consumers International is participating in the United Nation’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Focus Group on Digital Financial Services, which convened telecommunications and financial sector regulators; financial services providers, consumer advocates and other stakeholders beginning in January of 2015.  The Focus Group meets regularly and has the overarching objectives of 1) sharing knowledge; 2) researching good industry practices and; 3) making recommendations which lead to increased uptake of digital money services and thus greater financial inclusion. Consumer trust and consumer protection are inherent and essential to increase consumer use of digital money services globally.  Thus, there is a working group dedicated solely to the topic of the Consumer Experience and Protection.

Participation in the ITU process is normally limited to member state organizations. CI however was invited to join and to co-chair the working group on consumer protection due to its unique status as the only body for consumer interests globally. The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) is also co-chair of this group and has actively supported the initiative by utilizing its internal resources to aid research in a variety of countries on related digital money topics. (see www.CGAP.org for related research on digital money)

The next meeting of the four working groups which comprise the ITU’s Focus Group on digital financial services will be in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from September 19 – 22nd, hosted by the Bank of Tanzania (the central bank of the country).

Thanks to support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, CI has been able to provide a travel grant to support the participation of several of CI’s African members in the upcoming meetings. Members will attend from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Namibia, as well as from the host nation Tanzania. For 2016, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has also been supporting CI’s participation in the Focus Group.

The discussions have been complex and in depth over the past year and a half. While the advent of new mobile money products and, more importantly, increased competition from new financial services providers like telecoms, has definitely shaken up the status quo for under served and previously unbanked consumers, it has also served to highlight that many consumer protection challenges remain; albeit in new forms.  Old problems like a lack of transparency, limited access to redress and over reaching by providers (e.g. when defaults occur on credit products) still linger.  With the advent of new technology, new problems have emerged such as increased risk of fraud and thus loss of funds by the consumer and poor data protection and privacy. Just to provide two examples, consumers and their PINS are easily separated leading to fraud. Second, where ponzi schemes used to be based on individual face to face transactions with charismatic sellers, now with mobile money one transaction can defraud a much greater volume of victims. A further problem reported to us by African colleagues is the death of an account holder leading to the freezing of the account due to loss of the PIN number. 

In countries which have seen a surge in mobile money products and usage, frequently the market leaders are telecoms. These early market leaders, such as M-Pesa in Kenya, M-Pawa in Tanzania, G-Cash in the Philippines and B-kash in Bangladesh have had initial success providing primarily over the counter, cash in and cash out services through a dense network of agents, who may or may not work exclusively for the financial services provider. Consumers in these countries find mobile money to be extremely useful and economic for person to person (P2P) transfers and bill payment, such as in Kenya where two-thirds of the adult population uses mobile money on a regular basis. In Tanzania, where M-Pawa got off to a later start, the figure is 50% of all those with mobile phones using mobile money. Lately Governments such as Peru and India have also started to use mobile money for government benefits payments, thereby cutting down on consumer queuing and graft.

Clearly, mobile money products are popular and useful to consumers. However, the legacy of financial consumer protection abuses mentioned above, paired with the new problems associated with delivery of services by agents and increased potential for fraud and data privacy breaches, require an even closer eye by regulators and consumer advocates. Further, cross sector regulatory collaboration needs to improve (often financial, telecommunications and competition authority mandates are simultaneously implicated, but action is taken by none).

Regulators therefore must work individually and in collaboration with one another to establish equal coverage of different digital money provider types, and ensure consumer protection provisions apply to all financial products that use e-money. Regulations should require that the intended consumer protection outcomes for digital money are at least as good, or dare we say better, for consumers than for traditional banking.

Additionally, Regulators should put in place appropriate supervision and market monitoring measures as the basis for holding providers accountable. These should include standardized reporting requirements. Regulators should also consider using consumer research, such as mystery shopping and SMS surveys, for diagnostics, market monitoring and supervision. Regulators should consider partnering with consumer bodies to keep many eyes on this new market.

Thus, the upcoming meeting in Dar es Salaam will serve to discuss and finalize the consumer experience and protection recommendations to the Focus Group at large.  

Specifically we will be finalizing recommendations on the following topics which exist in draft form at present:

1. Contracts and Disclosure/Transparency
2. Quality of services (QoS)
3. Fraud Prevention & Risk of Loss of Funds
4. Agent Conduct
5. Recourse Mechanisms 
6. Data Privacy
7. Recommendations specific to Credit Products

Please let us know if you have any questions or insights from your organization’s research or work on the issue of consumer protection and digital money.  You can direct your input and inquiries to Jsolli@consint.org. Ms. Solli is a senior policy advisor at CI and is the present co-chair of the ITU consumer protection working group.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Averting an antibiotic apocalypse? Time for global restaurants chains to take action

Amanda Long, Director General at Consumers International, reacts to McDonald's recent announcement that it has finished implementing its commitments on chicken in the USA.

Consumers International and its Members are calling on KFC, McDonald’s and Subway to take meat raised on antibiotics important for human medicine off their menus globally.

At the beginning of this month McDonald’s USA announced that it had achieved its goal, of serving only chicken raised without antibiotics important to human medicine, eight months ahead of schedule.  The announcement came in the run up to a UN High Level meeting on anti-microbial resistance, taking place in New York on 21st September.

Because of overuse, resistance to existing antibiotics is rising at alarming levels, and there is a dearth of new drugs being brought to market. Without antibiotics that work, infections, small cuts and minor surgeries could once again become killers.

Left unchecked, antimicrobial resistance (the collective term for resistance to all kinds of antimicrobial drugs, of which bacterial resistance to antibiotics is the most pressing) will kill 10 million a year by 2050 – more than cancer. It is already killing 700,000 a year. We are on the brink of what Professor Dame Sally Davies, UK Chief Medical Officer has called an antibiotic apocalypse

Despite these dire warnings, animals destined to end up in our burgers, sausages and nuggets are being pumped full of antibiotics.  In many cases, rather than being used to treat sick animals, antibiotics are being used to make them grow faster or to prevent the cramped unsanitary conditions they are kept in from making them sick.  The more we use antibiotics, the more bacteria develop resistance to them.

There is strong consensus that measures to limit the use of antibiotics in farming should be a first port of call for the world’s decision makers. The use of antibiotics in farm animals exceeds use in humans in many countries and globally is believed to be more than 50% of use.  In the USA, more than 70% of antibiotics use is agricultural.  Furthermore the use of antibiotics in farming is set to increase by two thirds from by 2030: from 63,200 tons in 2010, to 105,600 tons in 2030.  The rise is driven by our monumental and growing global meat consumption.

So what has McDonalds actually done and will it make any difference?  McDonald’s has ended the use of antibiotics listed as critically important for human medicine by the World Health Organization in its poultry supply in the USA and has pledged to do the same in Canada. 

In taking this action, McDonald’s has gone further than some other chains in the USA.   KFC, which has a larger number of restaurants in the USA than any other chicken chain and is the second highest in sales has not gone as far.  It has said it will stop using just a handful of highest priority critically important antibiotics from the WHO list.   KFC is under increasing pressure to go further.  Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, (also subsidiaries of the Yum! Brands) have recently committed to serving chicken to its US customers raised without any of the antibiotics from the full WHO list. On 9 August, Yum! investors filed a shareholder resolution calling for KFC to follow suit.

On the other hand, there are chains in the USA that have gone further than McDonald’s.  Whereas McDonalds has only taken this action for the chicken it serves, Subway has committed to using chicken, turkey, beef, and pork raised without any antibiotics.  In a report from a coalition of consumer and environmental groups last year Chipotle, Panera and Chick-Fil-A, were given A and B grades for their antibiotic policies whereas McDonald’s was given a C.

The fact remains however, that these global chains are failing to make the same commitments outside of the USA. Whilst it is commendable that McDonald’s has acted in the USA and Canada, where around 43% of its branches are located, it has not committed to act on pork or beef and has not made the same commitment on chicken in other parts of the world.  McDonald’s in Europe has said that it will stop the use of some important antibiotics in the chicken it serves, but fails to go as far as McDonald in the USA and McDonald in Canada.   KFC and Subway have yet to make announcements anywhere outside of North America.

Of course we welcome any progress in this area and we don’t suggest that the sole power to prevent an antibiotic apocalypse rests entirely with a few fast food chains – but these are significant players and can lead the way.  When world leaders meet at the UN in September we will need strong, concerted, action on all fronts; including reducing use of antibiotics in human health and animal health and tackling the development of new drugs.

Given the scale of the global public health crisis the world is facing now due to antibiotic resistance, making partial commitments is simply not an option.  There is no plan B.

KFC, McDonald’s and Subway can and must go further. As awareness of the threat we are facing grows among consumers and politicians, they will be left with little choice. Far better to commit now, to work to set the standard for their industry globally, than be forced to catch up later.

Join us now in the call to take Antibiotics off the Menu

Friday, 5 August 2016

CI work on mobile banking standard ISO 12812

Robin Simpson and Sadie Homer, Senior Policy Advisors at Consumers International report on their work preparing the new international standard on mobile banking.
Back in January 2012, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) asked for experts to join the working group preparing a new international standard on Mobile Banking/Payments, in particular asking CI if we could represent the consumer stakeholder group, providing expertise, particularly in the field of consumer protection.

Four years later our efforts have borne fruit in the form of  ISO 12812 Core banking – mobile financial services. It takes the form of an international standard on the general framework for these services (Part 1) and is supported by four technical specifications on specific sectors of the business (parts 2-5 see below).

Achieving an ISO standard was not a smooth passage, two rounds of voting by national standards bodies were needed to gain approval. The second only succeeding on the basis that papers 2-5 do not have full international standard status. Nevertheless, CI felt able to support the final standard but it was not an easy process. Consumer experts encountered resistance to some basic consumer protection issues being included at times, even when they were optional (and bearing in mind that international standards are voluntary).

Ably assisted by experts from our members we fought for limits on how much consumers would be liable for, in the case of unauthorised or fraudulent use of their payment systems. We secured greater transparency in remittances sent between countries and we gained important safeguards on logging transactions and receipts, with electronic logs being kept available. One specific issue that was not considered until our intervention was the treatment of dormant assets, in particular in the event of the death of an account holder.  This is a major issue where consumers do not have an individualised mobile phone contracts, such as in much of Africa.

How worth-while are such exercises? After all, standards are not legally binding, they are voluntarily adopted by companies and cannot be enforced in court. CI expended scarce resources travelling to Paris, Chicago, Boston, also taking part in many teleconferences, and drafting in great detail.  These factors are important considerations. But without our participation the consumer voice would not have been heard at all. The alternative, legislation and binding regulation, can only be applied at national level one country at a time, and legislation may be even slower to develop than standards, if at all. 

Even if it will require another review for our conditions to be fully met, the applicability of this standards is potentially global. And in many countries, the standards adopted today can form the basis of regulation tomorrow. Standards can also be used by consumer organisations as a sound basis to compare businesses and to support those that offer best practice terms to consumers. They can also be used to hold transnational companies to account to provide an equal level of service to all consumers, in all countries they are doing business.

Papers 2-5 will be reviewed in two years’ time and CI would also support a review of ISO 12812, given the speed of development in this sector. At that point we hope to be able to strengthen the standard further and make the case for all parts to be given full International Standard status. The mobile payment and banking sector is fast evolving, and so the standards that keep consumers safe must also move with it. 

You can read more about the Standards here

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Defining Consumer Protection in the Digital Age

Robin Simpson, Consumers International's (CI) Senior Policy Adviser, recently represented CI at the OECD Ministerial Meeting on The digital economy innovation, growth and social prosperity which took place in Cancun, Mexico. He spoke at the Civil Society Forum convened by the OECD Civil Society information Society Advisory Council (CSISAC) and in the main agenda panel discussion on Consumer Trust and Market Growth, chaired by the French Secretary of State for the Digital Economy Mme Axelle Lemaire. Here are his impressions.

This event was big in both senses, hundreds of delegates and a substantial agenda of great importance to consumers. Such events are infrequent, the previous one was was in Seoul in 2008 a long gap given the speed with which developments take place in this technology driven area. The OECD has a very active work programme in which we are implicated through our membership of the Committee on Consumer Policy on which I have represented CI for 10 years. It is fair to say we have a critical stance on policies adopted (see below) but equally fair to note that they encourage our input. 

I start at the end. Like many such conferences it concluded with a grand declaration almost entirely pre-cooked. National delegations undertook to: 
  1. Support the free flow of information,
  2.   Stimulate digital innovation and creativity,
  3.  Increase broadband connectivity and …., protect consumers,
  4.  Embrace the opportunities arising from emerging technologies and applications such as the Internet of Things,
  5. Promote digital security risk management and the protection of privacy at the highest level of leadership
  6. Stimulate and help reduce impediments to e-commerce within and across borders
  7.  Take advantage of the opportunities arising from online platforms
  8. Spur the employment opportunities created by the digital economy
  9. Strive for all people to have the skills needed to participate in the digital economy and society

How can we possibly not like such a list of virtuous objectives? In the panel discussion chaired by Mme Lemaire, I described how the success of third party platforms has been underpinned by their acceptance of limited liability for consumers in the event of breaches of security and other ancillary supports such as dispute resolution. And I argued for the development of universal international standards for data protection and privacy. All of this is compatible with the above

But, as so often, what is most interesting about conference declarations is not so much what they include as what they do not include. Or the force with which major principles are stated…or not. CSISAC pointed out that privacy is insufficiently addressed by the declaration. Point 1 talks of ‘respecting applicable frameworks’ for privacy, point 5 seeks to  ‘promote…the protection of privacy at the highest level of leadership’. But privacy is a human right as recognised by the UN declaration on Human Rights of 1948 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 and needs to be stated as such. CSISAC also made the link between such rights and the Internet of Things (IoT).

But the declaration, in mentioning the IoT, sets down no markers in that regard, including only the usual qualifier ‘appropriateness’ when considering the need for regulatory frameworks. ‘Appropriate regulation’ is frequently a euphemism for reduction of regulation, a danger in a sector which is in our view dangerously exposed  to corporate abuse as is demonstrated by our recent publication: The Internet of Things and the challenges for consumer protectionWe make the point there that Intellectual property law is in danger of eclipsing consumer protection law in the digital area particularly in the IoT because software is governed by copyright law, which envisages use of products being licensed rather than the products being purchased. Licensees have far fewer protections as consumers compared with outright purchasers.

In the closing paragraphs of the statement, the national delegations ‘further declare’ that they will: ‘help preserve the fundamental openness of the Internet while concomitantly meeting certain public policy objectives, such as the protection of privacy, security, children online and intellectual property, as well as the reinforcement of trust in the Internet;’. Intellectual property is, we argue, over-protected in as much as consumers may find their computers rendered non-functional by technical protection measures in the event of their having transgressed, usually unwittingly, copyright elements within contracts of licence. Such technical measures are triggered by algorithms, not by agents of service providers and as such, escape judicial controls regarding the extent to which they are justifiable or proportionate. And in that respect, the statement as indeed the panel discussion on the Internet of Things, remained silent. 

Despite the technological razamatazz which characterised much of the conference, the discussion has not kept pace with the excessive technical measures taken against consumers that have been out there in the market place for over a decade now.