The Covid-19 virus has put the global consumer landscape on its head. Lockdowns, social distancing, and curfews are necessary to contain the spread of the virus. The recent lockdown, which has been partially lifted, brought about the closing of shops and businesses all over India. These measures forced consumers to move online, changed their behavior, demands, and consumption. A lot of people in the country ended up in vulnerable situations, and many still are, due to job loss, fear of job loss, limited social stimulation – making people both financially and psychologically vulnerable. This means that more consumers are at home and experiencing higher levels of distress. Due to the restrictions of traditional commerce, consumers are instead consuming goods and services online.
Protecting Consumers Online
It’s easier for businesses to run unfair or misleading ads online in order to increase revenue. When consumers are in distress and vulnerable, they are essentially at a greater risk of making poor decisions, especially financially, and get commercially exploited. Some businesses are better than others at protecting their customers and taking responsibility. The problem is that there are many small businesses online that can get away with unethical practices by putting premium pricing on essential goods and fake claims about virus treatments or prevention. Better collaboration between the government, organizations, businesses, and consumers is needed to better help protect consumers online. One area where consumers are systematically at risk, with or without a pandemic is the online casino industry.
This is a heavily regulated industry that works closely with government agencies and regulatory bodies to protect consumers. During the lockdown, the usage of online casino services soared which led to speculation around an increased risk of consumers developing gambling problems. The preventative measures used in online casinos in accordance with laws and regulations help keep the risk of problem gambling to a low despite the increase of numbers of users in online casinos during this period. Without regulations through law frameworks, responsibility, and accountability in online casino businesses, this would not be possible. In order to protect consumers online, the government together with organizations and businesses must cooperate to effectively stipulate and enforce laws and regulations and hold all types of online shopping businesses accountable if unlawful or unethical practices are used to exploit vulnerable consumers.