From toda’s MarketPlace:
In today’s increasingly technology-driven economy, consumer rights are becoming harder and harder to enforce due to digital tools that regulations haven’t yet addressed.
That is the message in “Buyer Aware: Harnessing Our Consumer Power for a Safe, Fair, and Transparent Marketplace,” a new book by Marta Tellado, president and CEO of the nonprofit Consumer Reports, which does product testing and other consumer advocacy work. As the use of algorithms and artificial intelligence increases, she says, so does the risk of inequitable practices that consumers don’t know about.
“You have to make decisions every day, based on algorithms and things that you can’t see, feel or touch,” Tellado said in an interview with Marketplace’s David Brancaccio. “And that’s incredibly challenging for everyday consumers.”
The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
David Brancaccio: There’s someone who may think that your job is to review robot vacuum cleaners or remind us yet again that Toyotas are good. But you see your professional work as a civil rights crusader at some level?
Marta Tellado: Well, that’s right. I think a lot of folks do know us because of the ratings. But a lot of what we do is really to shape the marketplace to create a more fair and safer marketplace. And in the book “Buyer Aware,” what I really tried to do is tell a larger story about our democracy, that it can only flourish if we have a marketplace that does just that: is more fair and more just for all consumers.
Brancaccio: All consumers — no one wants to be exploited by companies with which we interact. But additionally, and I think crucially important, reading your book, you see an equity issue. The exploitation is worse for some people and not others.
Tellado: Well, that’s right. And I think for me, the seed was planted as a young immigrant child coming into the United States after [the] revolution in Cuba and seeing my parents have to rebuild their economic life and having a very firsthand experience — and having a tremendous gratitude being able to come to a democracy. But you also see firsthand that economic freedom is a civil right, that you can’t have a fair market if there is inherent bias. And when our economic power and our agency are undermined, so is our power to function as a free and equal member of our democracy. So the book tries to pull out some examples, some really egregious examples, that demonstrate just how powerful that is, and the strong link between having a free and fair democracy and economic opportunity in the marketplace.
Read the complete interview here.