After announcing last month that it was going to investigate how big tech giants like Google and Apple use the payment information they collect from consumers, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has opened a comment period allowing anyone to submit their thoughts, opinions, and questions to inform the regulator’s inquiry.
Comments on the proposed investigation must be filed before December 6. The details were published in The Federal Register on Friday. The objective of the inquiry is to “help inform regulators and policymakers about the future of our payments system,” the CFPB said in its announcement. Among the questions posed by the CFPB that formed the basis of its decision to launch the investigation and what it is seeking to uncover are:
- Will the operators engage in invasive financial surveillance and combine the data they collect on consumers with their geolocation and browsing data?
- Will they in turn use this data to deepen behavioral advertising, engage in price discrimination, or sell to third parties?
- Will these companies operate their payment platforms in a manner that interferes with fair, transparent, and competitive markets?
- Will the payment platforms be truly neutral, or will they use their scale to extract rents from market participants?
- Will small businesses feel coerced into participating in the payment platform out of fear of being suppressed or hidden in search or product listings?
- If these tech companies enter a market that competes with other providers on the platform, will these providers be removed or otherwise disadvantaged?
- What factors will these tech companies use when disqualifying or delisting an individual or business from participating on the platform?
- How will these payment platforms ensure that key consumer protections are adhered to?
- How effectively do they manage complaints, disputes and errors?
- Are they sufficiently staffed to ensure adequate steps are taken to address consumer protection and provide responsive customer service when things go wrong?
In announcing the investigation, Rohit Chopra, the Director of the CFPB, laid out a number of possible scenarios under which the companies being investigated may “exploit” their payment platforms.