IntroductionIn is changing. Given the relatively short history

IntroductionIn light of the advances in the regulatory framework and increased media attention on Compliance related topics since the financial crisis, it is time for a shift in focus onto consumers, their rights and interests –not least because the role of the consumer is changing. Given the relatively short history of the Compliance field, with scandals like LIBOR1 behind us and the GDPR2 implementation ahead, representing the voice of the consumer in business is an area in which Compliance can still develop.Nowadays, consumers seem to have a more active role, informally regulating global businesses, by coercing companies into compliance via social media. For example, the #DeleteUber3 campaign that shamed the global ride-hailing car service for its customer data breaches and lack in customer safety.4Traditionally, the role of the compliance professional covers elements such as basic fitness and properness tests, authorisation, know-your-customer, financial crime and money laundering et al.5 Does the changing role of the consumer call for a new Compliance approach, one in which the compliance professional acts as the voice of the consumer inside the organisation?This essay argues that the role of the compliance professional includes taking on the voice of the consumer inside the business. Only if the consumer and the business speak with one voice both can benefit.This paper is divided into two parts. Part I considers the theoretical and practical reasons supporting this argument –drawing from the 20th century economist Milton Friedman, the aims of the European Commission and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), and the 2015 Compliance Notice against Arnotts.6Part II examines three counter-arguments that explore the limitations compliance professionals may face when acting as the voice of the consumer inside the1 My FT, ‘Libor scandal’ (Financial Times, 3 January 2018) accessed 3 January 20182 Data Protection Commissioner, ‘General Data Protection Regulation’ (Data Protection Commissioner, 3 January 2018) accessed 3 January 20183 Elena Cresci,’#DeleteUber: how social media turned on Uber’ (The Guardian, 30 January 2017) accessed 2 January 20184 In the October 2016 breach Uber exposed data of 57m customers and drivers; Julia Carrie Wong and Sam Morris, ‘Collision course: Uber’s terrible 2017’ (The Guardian, 2017/18) accessed 4 January 20185 David Jackman, The Compliance Revolution: How Compliance needs to Change to Survive (John Wiley & Sons 2015) 4-56 Arnotts Limited 2015 Compliance Notice (Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, 3 September 2015)3organisation, taking into account: the variety of consumer voices; consumer voices that are at odds with consumer interests; and the compliance professional’s autonomy in the midst of various other voices.Part I: One VoiceThe compliance professional may act as the voice of the consumer inside the organisation, not only with the view to protecting the consumer, but ultimately with the aim of protecting the business.What is “good for your customers, is good for your business”7. This idea of mutual benefit, a slogan promoted by the European Commission as part of its Consumer Rights Awareness Campaign,8 echoes Milton Friedman’s theory on the rules of the free market: “the most important single central fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit”9. Friedman’s observation highlights that the benefit of a transaction is spread between buyer and seller, i.e. consumer and business. Simply put, a happy consumer makes for a happy business and vice versa.Part of the consumer’s benefit, besides the product or service itself, is to have his/her rights protected when dealing with the business, e.g. through fair contract terms and consumer guarantees10. The protection of consumer rights can be achieved through an effective compliance professional, who, by identifying and reporting shortcomings, advising management, implementing change and monitoring progress et al., ensures that the standards set by the consumer protection framework are met by all business units.11 Paired with an effective complaints handling approach the organisation can help consumers enjoy the full benefit of the transaction.Equally, part of the business’s benefit, besides generating profit with the sale of goods or services, is to avoid prosecution and penalties, such as prohibition orders,7 European Commission, ‘EU Consumer Rights’ (European Commission) accessed 21 December 20178 Justice and Consumers, ‘Consumer Rights Awareness Campaign’ (European Commission) accessed 21 December 20179 Sean McElwee, ‘Milton Friedman: Father of the Tea Party?’ (Huffpost, 8 January 2013) accessed 22 December 201710 Consumer Rights, ‘Your rights in consumer contracts’ (European Commission) accessed 22 December 201711 Irisn H-Y Chiu, Regulating (From) the Inside: The Legal Framework for Internal Control in Banks and Financial Institutions (Bloomsbury 2015) Chapter 2: The Role of Compliance.4Compliance Notices and undertakings that may be imposed when a business falls short of honouring its obligations towards consumers.12For example, in the case of Dublin’s oldest department store Arnotts13, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) found that the store’s website misled consumers regarding the statutory cancellation period and procedure in distance contracts. 14 One deficiency was that the website falsely implied that a consumer who wants to cancel their order has 14 days to return goods from the day they are dispatched, as opposed to 14 days from the date the consumer cancels the order with the trader, as prescribed by Regulation 20 in the European Union (Consumer Information, Cancellation and Other Rights) Regulations 2013. 15If the prohibited practice identified in the Compliance Notice is not remedied, and an appeal fails, the trader is liable on summary conviction for an offence under the Consumer protection Act 2017, which may result in a fine of up to €3000 and/ or 6 months in prison, or a higher sentence in light of previous convictions.16 Meanwhile a simple adaptation of the website’s terms and conditions, in line with consumer protection law, can ensure consumer rights and at the same time protect the organisation from conviction.In short, a compliance professional’s role and responsibilities can include acting as the voice of the consumer, by protecting consumer rights. This may reduce complaints brought by consumers to the business or other institutions, save the business money in fines, and with this help retain customers in future.Part II: Various VoicesPart I implies that the voice of the consumer is singular, or at the very least that all voices are in tune with each other as well as the standards set under consumer law. Arguably, in reality consumer voices are more complex:Firstly, the voice of one consumer may not be representative of other consumers. Secondly, a consumer’s voice may not always be in line with its own best interest as it is understood in consumer law. Thirdly, the compliance professional must remain autonomous amidst several players, not only consumers. Thus the question arises,12 Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, ‘Consumer enforcement’ (CCPC) accessed 2 January 201813 Ciarán Hancock, ‘Timeline: In business 172 years on Dublin’s Henry Street’ (The Irish Times, 3 November 2015) accessed 4 January 201814 Arnotts Limited 2015 Compliance Notice (Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, 3 September 2015), p.4 para 8(d)15 European Union (Consumer Information, Cancellation and Other Rights) Regulations 2013, SI 2013/48416 Arnotts Limited 2015 Compliance Notice (Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, 3 September 2015), p.8 para 8 and 95can the role of the compliance professional be that of the voice of the consumer inside the organisation?Although this essay argues that the compliance professional’s role can include the voice of the consumer in the business, as established in part I, part II seeks to highlight the limitations and risks an over-simplification of the subject matter may carry.Firstly, consumer desires seem to be a broad church –lower prices, better quality, higher safety, speedier service, more time with sales staff, more online purchasing options etc. Without ridiculing the consumer, there is an argument to be made that demands can seem unreasonable and contradictory, often cancelling each other out and highly dependent on customers’ circumstances, moods and seasons. Consumers are an amorphous group difficult to grasp17 – hence the incessant attempts of the marketing and advertising industry to crack behavioural economics and with this the algorithm to consumers’ hearts, and wallets. Therefore, it may prove difficult for the compliance professional to act as one voice for a group with so many voices.Secondly, a consumer’s voice is not necessarily compliant with what is deemed to be in the best interest of the consumer under the consumer protection framework. For example, between 2013 and 2016 the ride-hailing service Uber, unlike taxi companies, charged an optional $1 “safe ride fee” for carrying out background checks on its drivers in California, USA. Customers who were happy to do without this safety measure paid a lower fair for their journey. In such a case it is unclear whether the compliance professional who acts as the voice of the consumer should pursue the best interest of the consumer, i.e. safety, or whether s/he should favour other possible consumer voices demanding a lower price to enable access to the service in the first place.18Thirdly, a compliance professional has to be autonomous from other stakeholders in the business –be it the KPI-driven sales force or the sales director who promised shareholders results. In order to independently oversee, advise, monitor and meet objective regulatory standards, the compliance professional cannot at the same time lobby for any particular team. Besides the players within the business, there are voices outside the company the compliance professional has to engage with –be it17 Anne-Francoise Lefevre and Michael Chapman, ‘Behavioural economics and financial consumer protection’ 2017, Paris: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), p.418 In 2014, district attorneys in San Francisco and Los Angeles sued Uber alleging that the “safe-ride” background checks fell below the “gold standard ensuring safest ride on the road” advertised on Uber’s website. Uber overstated its safety standards, considering many drivers had undetected felony convictions. A settlement in the sum of $10m was approved by a judge in San Francisco in 2016. Alex Hern, ‘Uber’s ‘safe ride fee’ becomes ‘booking fee’ after $25m settlement over rider safety’ (The Guardian, 8 April 2016) accessed 4 January 2018;Ellen Huet, ‘Uber’s Background Checks Failed To Catch A Murderer And Other Felons, Prosecutors Say’ (Forbes, 19 August 2015) accessed 4 January 20186the Central Bank of Ireland19, the European Commission, the National Safeguarding Committee20 et al.Thus, a compliance professional always operates in a multi-agency environment, made up of different national regulatory institutions, inter-sectoral bodies, supra-national regulators and his/her organisation. Solely representing the voice of the consumer seems an unrealistic task for any compliance professional, as this might interfere with his/her necessary independence to carry out the role.ConclusionEvidently, alongside other compliance duties and responsibilities, a compliance professional can and ought to act as the voice of the consumer, for the benefit of the latter. Part of the consumer’s benefit is the protection of consumer rights. The business’s benefit is to protect those rights and in doing so, remain sanction free.However, this role has its limits: First, a compliance professional will struggle to funnel many differing consumer voices into a singular narrative representative of all customers. Second, blindly following the consumer’s voice may result in the compliance professional advocating for consumer needs that undermine the very aims of the consumer protection framework. Third, representing only the consumer’s voice would fall short of safeguarding the compliance professional’s autonomy, and undermine his/her ability to navigate in a multi-stakeholder environment.19 Central Bank of Ireland, ‘About Us’ (Central Bank of Ireland, 2015) accessed 21 December 201720 National Safeguarding Committee, ‘Welcome’ (NSC, 2017) accessed 4 January 20187BibliographyArnotts Limited 2015 Compliance Notice (Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, 3 September 2015)Central Bank of Ireland, ‘About Us’ (Central Bank of Ireland, 2015) accessed 21 December 2017Irisn H-Y Chiu, Regulating (From) the Inside: The Legal Framework for Internal Control in Banks and Financial Institutions (Bloomsbury 2015)Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, ‘Consumer enforcement’ (CCPC) accessed 2 January 2018Consumer Rights, ‘Your rights in consumer contracts’ (European Commission) accessed 22 December 2017Data Protection Commissioner, ‘General Data Protection Regulation’ (Data Protection Commissioner, 3 January 2018) accessed 3 January 2018Elena Cresci,’#DeleteUber: how social media turned on Uber’ (The Guardian, 30 January 2017) accessed 2 January 2018European Commission, ‘EU Consumer Rights’ (European Commission) accessed 21 December 2017European Union (Consumer Information, Cancellation and Other Rights) Regulations 2013, SI 2013/484Ciarán Hancock, ‘Timeline: In business 172 years on Dublin’s Henry Street’ (The Irish Times, 3 November 2015) accessed 4 January 2018 Alex Hern, ‘Uber’s ‘safe ride fee’ becomes ‘booking fee’ after $25m settlement over rider safety’ (The Guardian, 8 April 2016) accessed 4 January 2018Ellen Huet, ‘Uber’s Background Checks Failed To Catch A Murderer And Other Felons, Prosecutors Say’ (Forbes, 19 August 2015) accessed 4 January 20188David Jackman, The Compliance Revolution: How Compliance needs to Change to Survive (John Wiley & Sons 2015)Justice and Consumers, ‘Consumer Rights Awareness Campaign’ (European Commission) accessed 21 December 2017Anne-Francoise Lefevre and Michael Chapman, ‘Behavioural economics and financial consumer protection’ 2017, Paris: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)Sean McElwee, ‘Milton Friedman: Father of the Tea Party?’ (Huffpost, 8 January 2013) accessed 22 December 2017My FT, ‘Libor scandal’ (Financial Times, 3 January 2018) accessed 3 January 2018National Safeguarding Committee, ‘Welcome’ (NSC, 2017) accessed 4 January 2018Julia Carrie Wong and Sam Morris, ‘Collision course: Uber’s terrible 2017’ (The Guardian, 2017/18) accessed 4 January 2018

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