Social distancing, curfews and complete lockdowns became the new reality for everyone following the outbreak of Covid-19. Even though the lockdowns were partially lifted throughout Canada in the summer months, we’re still seeing the patterns in consumer behavior remaining. People are still hesitant to socialize and move around the way they used to before the pandemic. As all shops and malls were closed up, people were forced to consume goods and services online at unprecedented rates. Many small to medium-sized businesses were forced out of business during this period, failing to adapt to the new market conditions. With failing businesses, a lot of people lost their jobs. While the economy is recovering, many people are still unemployed. As fears of second and third waves of the coronavirus loom, many more people are at risk of ending up in vulnerable situations – both financially and psychologically.
Consumers at Risk
Almost any type of goods or service is available a few clicks away while sitting on your couch. All you need to shop online is a device connected to the internet and a credit card. It’s also easier for businesses to reach consumers digitally. Most sites today display ad banners to visitors, any part of Facebook, whether it’s the social feed, business pages or the messenger contact list, there are ads displayed. Digital ads are also tailored to personal preferences based on a person’s internet history and search habits. This ease of access to goods and services coupled with unfair marketing tactics puts a lot of consumers at risk during this period of time. Many are vulnerable from a consumption perspective, being stuck at home, with many of them currently unemployed or going to be in the future. When people are in a state of distress, there’s a greater risk of making poor decisions, especially financially. This means that many people are currently at risk of being commercially exploited.
Call for Corporate Responsibility
Most companies are taking responsibility and are good at protecting their customers. The problem lies with smaller online businesses that can get away with unethical marketing practices. To protect consumers during these times, governments have to become better at working together with organizations, businesses and consumers. One area of online entertainment where consumers are particularly at risk is the online casino industry, where people bet and gamble online. Online gambling has reached new highs during and in the wake of the coronavirus. Naturally, in the current situation with an increase of people in a distressed and vulnerable state, one would believe that online casino operators are in a position to exploit consumers with unethical marketing practices. However, this is not the case and the reason for that is that the online casino industry is heavily regulated, and operators work closely with regulatory bodies and government agencies to protect consumers. Other industries should take some pages out of the book of the online casino industry and become better at working together with governing bodies. There is a great need for legal frameworks, preventive measures, accountability and responsibility from both the government and businesses to better protect consumers online.