Consumer Council of Fiji Celebrates World Consumer Rights Day, Advocating for Fair and Responsible Use of Artificial Intelligence

March 16, 2024

“It is essential to acknowledge the profound impacts of technological advancements particularly in the realm of artificial intelligence on consumer rights in the digital age. This year’s theme, Fair and Responsible AI for Consumers underscores the critical importance of ensuring that AI technologies are developed and deployed in a manner that upholds the principles of transparency, fairness and accountability,”. This was the message delivered by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, Co-operatives, SMEs and Communications while delivering his message at the 2024 World Consumer Rights Day Celebrations in Suva earlier today.

Co-ordinated by Consumers International, the membership organisation for consumer groups around the world and celebrated annually on March 15th, WCRD takes place every year to highlight the importance of consumer protection and empowerment. The theme for this year’s WCRD is “Fair and Responsible AI for Consumers.” The event, hosted at Suvavou house, brought together stakeholders, consumers, industry leaders and students to engage in insightful discussions surrounding the responsible use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in consumer relations.

The Minister also highlighted the pivotal role that the government industry players and consumers play a multifaceted role in safeguarding consumer rights in the digital age. “As your Minister, I understand the importance of creating and enforcing regulations that protect consumers from potential harms associated with AI technologies. This year’s theme also serves as a compelling embodiment of Fiji’s progressive vision for cultivating a modern, digital economy. The emphasis on harnessing the transformative potential of artificial intelligence reflects the nations commitment to leveraging cutting edge technologies for the betterment of society. In aligning with this vision, Fiji seeks to ensure that AI development prioritizes fairness and responsibility,” said Hon Kamikamica.

While delivering his remarks at the celebration, the Permanent Secretary for Trade, Co-operatives, SMEs and Communications Mr Shaheen Ali stated, “In the midst of promise and advancement we must remain vigilant as consumers, ensuring that the new technologies that are developed and deployed is done so responsibly with due considerations to ethical principles and of course consumer rights. Unchecked proliferation of AI has risks exacerbating inequalities, perpetuating biases, harm, particularly in vulnerable populations. Therefore, it is imperative that we uphold the principle of fairness, equal access, control, and accountability, in the development of AI technology and have the right framework, laws, regulations, to govern them, to control them”.

Mr Ali also emphasized governments commitment towards creating a safe digital space through national digital strategy current being formulated by the Ministry of Trade. He also commended the schools for participating in the oratory contest.

Whilst delivering his address during the event, the Consumer Council of Fiji Board Chair Mr Mohammed Gani stressed that consumers hold a uniquely powerful position within the economy, collectively shaping markets and influencing business practices through their purchasing decisions.

“As the single most powerful group in the economy, consumers have the ability to drive demand for products and services, which in turn influences production, innovation, and pricing strategies. The importance of World Consumer Rights Day lies in its recognition of this power and its emphasis on the need to protect and empower consumers,” said Mr Gani.

Mr Gani further stated that “by advocating for consumer rights and promoting fair business practices, WCRD serves as a catalyst for ensuring that consumers are treated ethically, transparently, and with respect. It highlights the vital role consumers play in fostering a balanced and equitable economic ecosystem, where their rights are upheld and their voices are heard.”

The Council extends its appreciation to all participants, especially students, who contributed to the success of this year’s World Consumer Rights Day celebration, advocating for fair and responsible AI use for the benefit of all consumers.