For more than a decade, digital technology has changed Canada’s economy so that goods and services can be supplied to consumers when, where and at a price that consumers want.
The growth of this “on-demand” economy is the subject of a research study released May 7 by Consumers Council of Canada – The On-Demand Consumer. The project uses the results of numerous industry interviews, telephone focus groups, online surveys, legislative reviews and other methods to answer two main questions about these developments: Has the digitally enabled on-demand economy significantly changed Canadian consumers’ behaviour, and, if so, how do policy makers, regulators and consumer organizations respond and remain effective without stifling innovation?
Despite widespread internet in the subject matter, little research has been conducted on its growth and the implications for consumer expenditures and welfare. The report pays considerable attention to consumers’ perceptions of the benefits, risks and potential harms associated with on-demand purchases, and what factors – gender, location (urban vs rural), past experiences – vary those perceptions. It found generally high levels of acceptance and satisfaction with the convenience, immediacy, efficiency, choice and independence provided by on-demand economy purchases.
The study identifies challenges faced by all levels of government, and makes several recommendations, including giving priority to expanded and more effective enforcement of existing laws, regulations and rules. It also recommends giving the on-demand economy and online consumers greater consideration when contemplating reforms in privacy, protection and other laws and regulations.
It also includes several recommendations for future study.