In a bid to help empower shoppers in the virtual marketplace, the European Union’s first Consumer Summit has brought together participants from industry, national administrations, EU institutions and NGOs – as well as consumers from across Europe.
Europe’s e-commerce market was worth 106 billion euros in 2006, and 150 million EU citizens were shopping online, says Consumers affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva. She warned that care must be taken to encourage this: “We must ensure that important issues of personal privacy, data collection and profiling practices do not damage trust in the digital space. Consumers should not have to pay different prices for the same product from the same seller if there is no good reason. I believe that what is unfair off-line should also be prevented online.” Kuneva’s message covers a lot. It is not just that commercial websites can confuse, mis-inform, cheat, waste time or fail to deliver. Even self-respecting companies, social networking sites included, must prize privacy or risk turning away business.