Chapter 9 Introduction

Older adults are major contributors to the U.S. economy through consumer spending. It is important that this spending take place in a safe and fair marketplace. Older adults need access to products and services that create value, solve problems, and make their lives better. In a fair and vibrant marketplace, older adults have the power to make informed choices about the options that best serve their needs at an affordable price. They have the confidence that the products and services available to them are safe. And they have the knowledge that if a company violates their trust or attempts to unfairly dominate the market, there will be pathways to effective redress for them and their communities. 

Online platforms have dramatically expanded consumer choices. Consumers can also compare prices and buy many goods and services directly from suppliers around the world. However, these same technologies can hinder competition. They have the potential to control which products and services are offered to consumers and to charge different consumers varying prices. Concentration among suppliers means that sudden increases in demand may be difficult to meet. And significant consolidation may prevent the deployment of innovative solutions from new market entrants. 

New technologies have also accelerated the amount of personal information that companies collect and use. On the positive side, that personal information provides more customized products and services that are faster and easier to use. This personal information can also bring about beneficial innovations that help all consumers, including older adults. At the same time, personal information may increasingly be harnessed in ways that are inaccurate, invasive, or even discriminatory. Often, little information is available about the types of personal information collected and people’s ability to reject or limit the way that personal information may be used, shared, or sold. 

Ensuring consumer protections across the marketplace is thus now more important than ever.