The Southern African Institute of Government Auditors (SAIGA) recognises and supports the annual celebration of World Consumer Rights Day on March 15. This global event aims to raise awareness about consumer rights and needs, and  is aligned with SAIGA’s commitment to promoting good governance and accountability.

The theme for World Consumer Rights Day 2024, “Fair and Responsible AI for Consumers,” is particularly relevant in the contemporary era where artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly shaping products and services. As AI becomes more prevalent in various industries, it is essential to ensure that it is developed and used ethically, respecting the rights and needs of consumers.

SAIGA emphasises the importance of ethical artificial intelligence (AI), as it can have a significant impact on consumer rights. AI has the potential to transform the way businesses interact with consumers, from personalised recommendations to automated customer service. However, there are concerns about the potential misuse of AI, such as bias in algorithmic decision-making, privacy violations and lack of transparency in AI systems.

In the context of consumer rights, the Chief Executive Officer of SAIGA, Russel Morena  speaking on the sidelines of the SAIGA Audit and Finance Indaba, which took place at the Investec Pretoria Office on Friday said that there are several key principles that should guide the development and use of AI. Firstly, he said AI systems should be designed to ensure fairness and non-discrimination, avoiding bias in decision-making processes. This is especially important in areas such as credit scoring, hiring processes, and criminal justice, where AI systems can amplify existing inequalities.

Secondly, Mr Morena said consumer privacy should be safeguarded in the use of AI. As AI systems often rely on large amounts of personal data, there is a risk of privacy violations if proper safeguards are not in place. Consumers should have control over their personal data and be informed about how it is being used in AI systems.

Transparency is another essential principle for ethical AI. Consumers should be able to understand how AI systems make decisions that affect them and have access to information about the use of AI in products and services. This transparency is crucial for building trust and accountability in the use of AI.

“SAIGA also recognises the need for responsible AI governance, which involves setting clear standards and guidelines for the development and use of AI. This should involve collaboration between governments, industry, and civil society to ensure that AI is used in a way that benefits consumers and society as a whole,” said Morena.

In summary, World Consumer Rights Day serves as an important reminder of the need to prioritise consumer rights in the development and use of AI. SAIGA supports the theme of “Fair and Responsible AI for Consumers” and advocates for ethical AI that respects consumer rights. 

“By upholding principles of fairness, privacy, transparency and responsible governance, AI can be a force for positive change that benefits consumers and society,”  Morena concluded.