Consumer Rights On Fair And Responsible Ai

The inception of Artificial Intelligence (AI) enhanced consumer services while raising concerns about safeguarding consumer rights and fairness. Despite its potential, AI poses risks such as spreading harmful content, legal issues over copyright and unlawful disclosure of private information. 

By adhering to ethical guidelines, including transparency, fairness, privacy protection, and accountability, we can mitigate risks and ensure consumer welfare, improving user experience and strengthening consumer protection. Prioritizing consumer rights in the age of AI is paramount, ensuring that technological advancements align with ethical guidelines that benefit the society.

Consumer rights in Kenya are guided by Article 46 of the Constitution of Kenya which states that both public and private entities have a responsibility to uphold the principle of protecting the buyer who has entered into a contractual relationship with the seller. The Court of Appeal in Nairobi Bottlers Limited v Ndung'u & another anchored the jurisprudence on consumer protection, placing the responsibility on suppliers to reduce the information gap between suppliers and consumers by setting out in their product labels the nutritional information of the product, storage directions and customer service contact information.

Consumer rights include but are not limited to:

  1. Rights to goods and services of reasonable quality;
  2. Right to the provision of information necessary for consumers to gain full benefit from goods and services;
  3. Right to the protection of consumers’ health, safety and economic interests; and 
  4. Right to compensation for loss or injury arising from defects in goods or services provided. 

Safety, Information, Choice, Voice, Redress 

The Competition Act was enacted to protect consumers from unfair and misleading market conduct and provides for the establishment of the Competition Authority and Competition Tribunal that have powers to enforce consumer protection measures and sanctions. However, there are areas of concern to be considered:

  • Efficiency in enforcement measures;
  • Governance framework of the Competition Authority; and 
  • Ability to handle emergency issues.

Artificial Intelligence and Consumer Protection

2023 was the epitome of generative artificial intelligence in the digital world impacting the workforce, creation and innovation, communication, information gathering and so on. AI may enhance consumer care and improve channels for redress but consumer safety and digital fairness must be of top priority.

How can generative AI negatively affect consumer rights?

  1. Distribution of harmful content - AI systems can create content automatically based on text prompts by humans which may be disruptive or harmful; 
  2. Copyright and legal exposure - Popular generative AI tools are trained on massive image and text databases from multiple sources, including the internet. When these tools create images or generate lines of code, the data's source could be unknown, which can be problematic for industries such as a bank handling financial transactions or pharmaceutical companies relying on a formula for a complex molecule in a drug. Reputational and financial risks could also be massive if one company's product is based on another company's intellectual property;
  3. Sensitive information disclosure - Generative AI is democratizing AI capabilities and making it more accessible. For example, a medical researcher may inadvertently disclose sensitive patient information or a consumer brand unwittingly exposing its product strategy to a third party. The consequences of unintended incidents like these could irrevocably breach patient or customer trust and make way for legal ramifications;
  4. Amplification of existing bias - Generative AI can potentially amplify existing biases, for example, bias can be found in data used for training large language models outside the control of companies that use these language models for specific applications. It's important for companies working on AI to have diverse project leads and subject matter experts to help identify unconscious bias in data and models.

What does responsible AI look like in its development, deployment and usage?

  1. Transparency - Developers need to be transparent about the data, algorithms, and models used in AI systems. This ensures that decisions made by AI can be explained and mistakes can be fixed;
  2. Fairness - AI must treat everyone fairly, regardless of their background. This helps prevent biased decisions or discrimination, promoting inclusivity and equality;
  3. Privacy protection - Protecting people's privacy is important when using AI. Organizations should handle personal data responsibly, following strict privacy regulations. Respecting privacy builds trust in AI systems; and 
  4. Accountability and explainability - Responsible AI requires mechanisms for holding systems accountable and explaining their decisions. Consumers should understand how AI systems work and have a way to address issues or biases.

What is the impact of responsible generative AI on consumers?

  1. Enhanced user experience - Responsible AI can provide personalized and intuitive experiences. This way, AI systems offer tailored recommendations and create seamless interactions for specific consumers;
  2. Consumer protection - Ethical AI practices protect consumers from harm or exploitation. Ensuring privacy, fair treatment and safeguards for consumers' rights and securing their personal data;
  3. Bias mitigation - Responsible AI works to reduce bias and discrimination. By addressing biases in algorithms and datasets, AI systems produce more fair outcomes, avoiding perpetuating inequalities based on any grounds; 
  4. Improved decision making - Responsible AI helps consumers make informed choices. AI-powered tools provide intelligent insights in areas like finance, healthcare, and education; and
  5. Trust and accountability - The responsible use of AI fosters trust between consumers and technology. When consumers trust AI systems, they are more likely to embrace and use them, contributing to further improvements.

Regarding data privacy, the Data Protection Act does not address the issue of collection and processing of data by AI systems and there are no guidelines on use of personal data by developers during the training of their algorithms. It is a bone of contention for user privacy as most people are unaware that their data is being collected, stored, and how AI systems use this collected data.

In conclusion, consumer rights are constitutionally protected, underpinning the importance of upholding ethical standards in AI innovation. It is therefore paramount to prioritize consumer rights, ensuring that technological advancements align with ethical standards to benefit society as a whole.

Related blogs & news

What is a Power of Attorney (POA)?

Power of Attorney (POA) is a formal instrument by which one person empowers another to represent him or act in his behalf in many matters including transactions for sale of land, registration of intellectual property, filing of lawsuits, signing off on documents, and opening of a bank account among many others. ...

Employee Consultation Before Redundancy

The requirement of consultation is not expressly provided in section 40 of the Employment Act, 2007. However, by dint of Article 2(6) of the Constitution, treaties and conventions ratified by Kenya form part of the law of Kenya. Kenya is a state party to the International Labour Organization (ILO) since 1964 and is therefore bound by the ILO conventions....

Employees Right To Information

The Employment Act, 2007, does not have an express provision on the employees’ right to information. However, Article 33(1)(a) of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, provides that every person has the right to freedom of expression, which includes freedom to seek, receive or impart information or ideas. Article 35 (1)(b) of the Constitution 2010, further provides that every Citizen has the right to access information held by another person and required for the exercise or protection of any right or fundamental freedom. What information do employees have a right to? 1. Organizational goals and objectives Organizational goals and objectives are easily overlooked in the day-to-day business of getting the job done, but they should be provided, not just to new employees at induction, but to everyone regularly. Reinforcing an understanding of organizational goals and strategy helps employees feel like they are part of the business, which in return leads to improved job performance and engagement. Apart from the emphasis being made by the human resource manager, the line manager too should regularly remind his/her team of the goal and objective of the firm. The line manager together with his/her team may develop their department goals that align with the overall goal of the company. When a department has established its departmental goal, then it means they understand the goal and objective of the company. This in return leads to improved output and increased production. 2. Organizational policies and procedures Most organizations have rules, policies, and procedures that guide how they do things which is important for employees to know and understand. Depending on the company, the policies and procedures may be incorporated in the employee handbook or the human resource manual. How you collate this information is a matter of considering what works for you and the team, but the key is that you must make sure employees are aware of and understand all rules, procedures, practices, or policies with which they are expected to comply. This means they need to be written down somewhere and easily accessible. 3. Organization structure An organizational structure is the way that a company, organization, or team is set up. Every company and team has an organizational structure, even if it’s not formally defined. Organizational structures are important because they help businesses implement efficient decision-making processes and provide a clear org chart that helps businesses keep track of their human resources. Thus, the employees need to understand the organizational structure of the company because it guides all employees by laying out the official reporting relationships that govern the workflow of the company. A formal outline of a company's structure makes it easier to add new positions in the company, as well, as providing a flexible and ready means for growth. An employee who understands the organizational structure will be motivated to know that the company has a growth plan. 4. Feedback on performance Employees need to understand how well they are doing in their roles and what they can improve on. Regular constructive feedback is essential here, and the temptation to only pick them up on things they are doing wrong should be avoided. It is hard for you to do your best without information, and the same is true for your employees. If you withhold information unnecessarily, you will lose your talent. Maybe not today; but eventually those with choices will leave you. What information can be withheld from employees? Never use information withholding as power. If you are given 'secret' information, don't tell people you have it unless they ask you. If people ask you if you have information, be honest. Don't tell them you don't have information if you do. Tell them that you are not at liberty to share, and tell them why, e.g. "I've been asked to keep it confidential and I need to honor that request." If you establish a track record of early, honest information sharing, you will have more room to occasionally withhold information when the situation dictates. Information that should be kept confidential includes any information that could damage a company's reputation or ability to do business if that information becomes public. Such information is proprietary or sensitive. This information includes information whose disclosure is likely to: a. Impede the due process of law and procedures of the company; b. Endanger the safety, health, or life of any person; c. Involve the unwarranted invasion of the privacy of an individual; and/or d. Substantially prejudice the commercial interests, including intellectual property rights, of the company or third party from whom information was obtained. In the words of Sam Walton, Wal-Mart Founder: I guess our greatest technique and our greatest accomplishment is the commitment to communicating with employees in every way that we possibly can and listening to them constantly…you've got to put their interest first, and eventually, it will come back to the company....

The legality of Non-Compete Clauses in Kenya

A non-compete clause is a contractual agreement between two parties, typically an employer and employee, where the employee agrees not to engage in certain business activities that would be considered competitive with the employer's business. The purpose of a non-compete clause is to prevent the employee from working for or starting a business that would compete with the employer during and after their employment....

Why SMEs should use documents drafted by an Advocate for their Businesses

Here are some reasons why SMEs should use documents drafted by an Advocate: 1. Compliance with the Law. SMEs are subject to various laws and regulations. An Advocate can help SMEs navigate the complex legal landscape and ensure that they comply with all relevant laws and regulations. Non-compliance can lead to significant penalties, which can be detrimental to the business....

section separator logo

Talk to us.

+254 716 209673

Skip to contentHomeAbout UsInsightsServicesContactAccessibility