2024 Consumer Assembly Sessions

Revising Antitrust to Rein In Big Tech Platforms: What Role Should Antitrust Play Regarding Big Tech?

A bad thing happened on the internet: it has become dominated by a handful of big tech platforms. They have bought up their rivals, worked to stifle competition, and formed oligopolies over large swaths of economic life. Large players use their size to offer free or low-cost services with the dual aims of starving smaller rivals and capturing market share, knowing they can recoup their losses once they have achieved dominance in their market segment. With so much market power, they capture and monetize our personal data on their terms and in ways that consumers feel powerless to prevent. Their size and power harm small businesses as well. Because many consumers rely on search engines and social media to find a service or a product, Big Tech companies have effectively become toll booths to commerce. Unfortunately, the antitrust framework has traditionally measured consumer welfare through pricing. This panel will discuss potential solutions to revise antitrust law to restore the balance of power between consumers and Big Tech.

Protecting the Privacy of our Servicemembers

The military community is often a target for fraud and identity theft due to the fact that military families frequently relocate. These issues have a cascading effect, causing issues with credit reporting errors and jeopardizing the morale of our troops and their financial readiness. A recent study from Duke University also demonstrated the alarmingly lax treatment of servicemembers’ personal information by data brokers, which can be purchased for as little as $0.12 per record, creating issues of national security. Hear from panelists about the myriad of concerns presented by these problems and discuss policy recommendations.

Unraveling the Real Estate Broker Fee Debate

Amidst a historical housing crisis in the United States, many homebuyers struggle to afford a home. Excessive fees in closing costs, including real estate agent commissions, exacerbate this problem. In recent years, the outsized costs of broker fees and their lack of price variation have come under scrutiny. In Burnett et al. v. National Association of Realtors (NAR), the jury found the trade association liable for conspiring to artificially inflate commissions, ordering the defendants to pay $1.78 billion in damages to Missouri home sellers. This lawsuit and similar ones filed since are upending the ways real estate agents charge commissions. In this fireside chat, CFA’s Director of Housing Sharon Cornelissen interviews Stephen Brobeck to explore the evolving landscape of real estate agent broker fees and its consumer implications. We will delve into the national significance of this issue, dissect how price-fixing occurs, and propose potential solutions. We will also touch upon the benefits of reform for all consumers, including first-time homebuyers.

Building a Better Foundation for Homeowners of Manufactured Housing: Ongoing Challenges and Policy Solutions

Manufactured housing plays a critical role in providing affordable housing options, but the bargain may come with costs, including weaker consumer protections and more vulnerability to risks. Its homeowners often encounter hurdles in obtaining adequate financing and insurance, which hinders their ability to build home equity and stay in place. Moreover, a significant share of manufactured homes are located in parks where residents rarely own the land, and sometimes rent homes, leaving them uniquely vulnerable to eviction, park closures, and the outfalls of disasters. Our expert panelists will provide an overview of key challenges and policy solutions for homeowners of manufactured homes today. They will discuss the unique vulnerabilities and downsides of chattel loans, the disparities in homeowners’ insurance access, affordability, and quality highlight policy ideas that may improve the financial stability of residents. Overall, we will discuss how manufactured housing and its policy innovations could help promote more equitable and affordable housing opportunities for all.

Navigating Product Safety Online

Consumers expect to purchase safe products, but what are the safety and health implications as shoppers increasingly turn to online platforms? This panel will explore efforts to remove recalled or otherwise violative products sold on or through online marketplaces. It also will discuss the challenges with holding third-party sellers accountable and what can be done to empower consumers with safety information.

Protecting Kids from Online Pushers

As e-commerce has grown, so too have efforts to peddle vaping, gambling, alcohol, and other adult products to youth. A panel of experts will discuss how unscrupulous companies are targeting a new generation of consumers, and the most promising avenues of reform for fighting back.

How State and Local Consumer Agencies Help Consumers

State and local consumer agencies handle hundreds of thousands of complaints about a wide variety of issues that impact consumers in their daily lives. Hear from CFA’s consumer agency members in various parts of the country about the way their agencies are structured within their states and localities, how they route and resolve complaints, their outreach efforts, and recent trends in complaints.

Homeowners Insurance and Fair Housing: Learning from Housing to Improve Oversight of the Insurance Market

Since the Civil Rights movement, Congress has passed a range of laws to help protect American consumers against discrimination in buying or renting a home. The Fair Housing Act prohibits any housing discrimination on the basis of protected classes, which include race, color, national origin, religion, and sex. The Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) requires lenders to publicly disclose data on all loan applications they receive, including the race of applicants. And the Community Reinvestment Act ensures that large banks lend and invest in all communities where they have customers. But even as the availability and affordability of homeowners’ insurance increasingly shape who can afford a home, the insurance industry remains largely untouched by Fair Housing standards and requirements.

This panel brings together experts on fair housing and insurance to discuss what we can learn from anti-discrimination legislation in housing to better assess and regulate the insurance market. We will discuss the ways that fair housing enforcement may be applied to insurance providers. We will also consider the data disclosure standards and community investment expectations that are common to home lending. Overall, by considering lessons from housing policy, we assess how we can reduce unfair discrimination in insurance markets, improve home safety and community resilience, and lower costs, especially in communities of color most impacted by legacies of redlining and growing climate risk.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: AI’s Impact across Consumer Products and Services

The ubiquity of AI is staggering. Promoters of this technology often refer to the benefits that will be offered to consumers from its usage, like providing greater ability to analyze and make use of vast amounts of information. But detractors have raised concerns about issues such as privacy, and potential bias and inaccuracies within the vast amounts of data that are collected. This panel will explore the pros and cons of AI’s deployment and usage across a variety of consumer products and services.

See recordings from last year’s Consumer Assembly here

Questions? Please contact Anna Marie Lowery, Director of Meetings and Events.

Past Events

Continue to check back here for updated information on dates, agenda and more.

Would you like to receive e-mail reminders about conferences and events?

Sign Up Now