Editorial – The need for informed consumer action

By : Maryse Guénette

Every single day, whether checking into a social network, browsing the Internet or simply making a purchase, we let slip multiple items of personal information, mostly without realizing we are doing so. This information is priceless to companies, however. It not only allows them to identify us but to find out our likes and dislikes. It allows them to track our movements and know what we think. In short, it allows them to influence us. The 2016 American elections and, in the same year, the Brexit referendum, provided a sharp lesson of just how true that is.

New technologies are developing at a dizzying pace, and the need grows daily more urgent to ensure that privacy laws are adapted to deal with new realities and that the enforcement agencies are equipped with adequate powers and resources. This is the central topic we address in this first issue of OC Magazine. More than ever, consumers need their privacy to be protected. They also need to be well informed about what mechanisms already exist to ensure this is done, and the impact that their own behaviour can have.

We need not look far to see how dramatically the consumer world has changed in recent years. Merchants have begun to sell their products on the Web, companies have invented platforms on which citizens obtain services from other citizens, and algorithms have replaced humans or are about to do so. In this new state of affairs, the challenges facing consumer protection are unprecedented, and consumers need to know how to recognize them.  In an era of such drastic change, our first line of defense is to be informed.

In OC Magazine, we focus on studies conducted by consumer associations, universities and public organizations in Canada. These studies, which are often better-researched and more up-to-date than the policies of decisions makers, yield vital information on the changes occurring in the word of consumerism and the impact they have on you. The issues we report on are sometimes complex, yet unfailingly interesting. Too often, however, their content goes unnoticed or is only available to a limited public – in one region or province, for example.

OC Magazine is published by Option consommateurs, a non-profit organization based in Montreal. There  are several consumer associations around the world that publish magazines – such as Consumers’ Union in the United States, (Consumer Reports) the Australian Consumers’ Organisation (Choice) and France’s Union fédérale des consommateurs (UFC—Que choisir). Just like Option consommateurs, these associations are excellently well placed to know what is happening in the field. They are aware of the difficulties that consumers encounter, both in the transactions they make or when it comes to asserting their rights.

The editorial staff of OC Magazine is independent of Option consommateurs. While it benefits from the organization’s knowledge—knowledge that only work and research in the field can provide— it ensures that the articles published in it are produced by real journalists who know how present their material effectively and objectively. Its goal is to ensure that Canadian consumers are better informed about current consumer issues, and, in doing so, become more empowered to confront the challenges of today and tomorrow. That is what we hope this magazine will do for our readers