Focus on metaverse at the FestivalFuturo Altroconsumo, an opportunity but regulation is needed

The development of the metaverse and the consequent regulation of this new dimension of sociality must take place in compliance with the rights of citizen-consumers. These are some of the topics discussed today in Milan within the “institutional” inauguration tables with which the 10th edition of the Altroconsumo FestivalFuturo opened. The meeting was attended, among others, by the Director General of Antitrust – Consumer Protection Giovanni Calabrò, Guido Scorza, Member of the Board of the Guarantor for the protection of personal data and the Deputy of the Italian Republic and Vice President of Action Giulia Pastorella.

“Our present, we know, is marked by great unknowns: war, inflation, economic and social difficulties worry us and commit us, as an Organization and as citizens, every day. Precisely in these moments, however, we must not stop looking at the tomorrow: to start imagining it, understanding it and building it together” declared Federico Cavallo, Head of Public Affairs and Media Relations of Altroconsumo. “In the future, the metaverse could represent a great opportunity for the consumer, provided they know how to take up the new challenges and prevent risks, guaranteeing the citizens’ interest. It is a new dimension which, as such, must be discovered, analyzed and regulated in order to better grasp all its potential. Also for this reason Altroconsumo has decided to open its own House in the metaverse with the Festival, to learn firsthand and give people tools with which to experiment and freely form their own opinion” concluded Cavallo.

“Even if the metaverse still seems a world away to us, I think it’s important that politics and authorities start dealing with it right away, to avoid finding ourselves chasing the technology when it is already widespread, as has happened with many other innovations” , underlined Giulia Pastorella, Deputy of the Italian Republic and Vice-President of Action. “We need to reiterate some fundamental principles. I am thinking of what European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said about social platforms: what is illegal offline must be illegal online. A reflection must therefore be opened involving companies, civil society and of course consumers to understand where an intervention by the regulator can help the development of the potential of technology while maintaining the citizens’ rights in these new experiences. Only by studying, deepening and understanding how this new world works will it be possible to build clear and functional rules”.

The metaverse also presents a complex privacy challenge for both individuals and businesses. As a constantly evolving technological innovation, there are still no clear laws governing what concerns the digital world. In this context, the role played by the authorities is fundamental. “The future that awaits us, regardless of whether it is called metaverse or in a different way, will certainly be a future in which we will live more immersed than today in a universe essentially made up of data – personal and non-personal -, algorithms and supplier services individuals”, recalled Guido Scorza, Member of the Board of the Guarantor for the protection of personal data.

“There are numerous opportunities on the horizon, as ahead of every technological revolution, and many, at the same time, risks. Among the latter, the most worrying are seeing the boundary line between the public and the private sector increasingly eroded, with the consequent loss of that sphere of confidentiality – different for each one – without which human existence becomes unsustainable and that of finding ourselves, more than what already happens, guests of enormous private gardens in which our rights and freedoms are “granted” to us for contract, within the limits established by the terms of use that govern and will govern the services that will shape the metaverse or, in any case, the evolution of the Internet as we know it. Preventing these risks from becoming a reality is the main challenge that will be up to all the Authorities starting, of course, with those dealing with the protection of personal data”, concludes Scorza.

The weight of digital technology in Italy, comments Antonio Misiani, Vice-President of the Senate Permanent Budget Commission, “has become very significant. 97% of Italians have a smartphone. We spend over 6 hours a day on the Internet. Digital commerce covers 17.5% of total turnover and online advertising has surpassed that on TV. Data has enormous economic value. We need greater awareness of this on the part of citizens and greater transparency on the part of those who process this data. The rules are finally making a leap of quality”.

The entry into force of the DMA and DSA, adds Misiani, “represents a revolution, which places the EU at the forefront of competition and consumer protection worldwide. The challenge we face is multi-level. Implementing these rules Verify their effectiveness during construction, correcting them where necessary Educate citizen-consumers: make them aware of the value of their personal data, of their rights, of the tools they have at their disposal to enforce them. this area is the most important space, in my opinion, for consumer associations”.

The Director General Antitrust – Consumer Protection Giovanni Calabrò highlighted that “among the virtual experiences that can be lived in the metaverse there is that of consumption. Which immediately raises a series of questions about the need for virtual consumer protection ( Is there an economic relationship? What is it determined by? From a connection with the real world, in which there is an expense and an initial economic choice made as a condition for operating in the metaverse, or is everything exhausted within the metaverse? ), and in the event of an affirmative answer on whether protection is possible by transposing within the virtual world the rules which, at present, base their rationale on consumer relations in the real world, or whether instead specific rules need to be identified for the metaverse”.

More specifically, continued Calabrò “What will be, for example, the regime of contracts concluded in the metaverse? What are the users’ rights? The purchase of a product in the virtual universe will qualify as a distance contract as it is carried out on a continuation of the web with consequent application of the related protections or otherwise, should the coexistence of professionals/sellers and consumers/buyers within the same “universe” testify to the inapplicability of the relative discipline?”. The common thread of this tenth edition of the Festival will therefore be the space of the future. Starting from the domestic one, first of all, which unites everyone. A space to inhabit, to explore, to rethink also in the light of technological and social transformations. A space that, after Covid, will no longer be just a place to take refuge but is increasingly configured as a “gateway to tomorrow” and an enabler of new consumer experiences, relationships and culture that will transform everyone’s life and the society around us.