Canada’s ICPEN presidency: Building consumer trust in a changing marketplace


Remarks by Josephine Palumbo, Deputy Commissioner, Deceptive Marketing Practices Directorate, Competition Bureau

ICPEN 2020 Virtual Conference

May 28, 2020


Thank you.

Hello to all my fellow ICPEN members, and thank you for joining us today for the first-ever virtual ICPEN Annual Conference. I am Josephine Palumbo, Deputy Commissioner of the Deceptive Marketing Practices Directorate at Canada’s Competition Bureau. I hope that you and your loved ones are doing well in these trying times.

While the current global pandemic situation prevents us from meeting face-to-face, ICPEN has risen to the occasion and found a way to make this event happen. This level of determination and commitment to ICPEN’s important objectives, in the face of the challenges we are all dealing with, demonstrates the Network’s resilience, and this is just one reason why Canada is so proud that you have chosen us as the ICPEN President for the coming term.

Like Colombia, Canada is a beautiful and diverse country, as you can see from our video. It’s a great place to visit, it’s a great place to live, and it’s a great place to do business.

You’ve probably also heard that Canadians have a reputation for being very polite, and that’s absolutely true.

So, true to my roots, I’d like to start by saying a few thank-yous.

First, I would like to thank all ICPEN member countries for your continued efforts and for selecting Canada to lead those efforts in 2020-2021. As President, we pledge to protect consumers against fraudulent and deceptive business practices, and to provide leadership in support of the network’s important mandate. 

A special thank you to Belgium’s Directorate General for Economic Inspection, for acting as the ICPEN Secretariat for the past four years.

And, a big thank you to the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection for taking over that role for the next three years.

Of course, I can’t forget Colombia’s Superintendencia de Industria y Comercio.

Gracias por el gran trabajo que ha realizado durante su mandato presidencial. Apreciamos todo lo que ha hecho para contribuir a la visión de la ICPEN.

You’ve given Canada big shoes to fill.

I would also like to congratulate Portugal’s Consumer Directorate-General for being awarded the ICPEN Presidential term for 2021-2022.

And finally, thank you all for patiently listening to all those thank-yous.

While we will surely face unexpected challenges ahead, we really do have much to be grateful for! As members of ICPEN, we are part of an incredible network that shares a common purpose of collaboration and information sharing to protect consumers around the globe.

Importance of ICPEN

Not only does ICPEN encourage practical action to prevent cross-border marketing malpractice, the Network also gives us all a chance to exchange best practices, which leads to greater harmony in our global approach to consumer protection.

When you consider all the member nations together, ICPEN represents approximately 5 billion consumers worldwide. Canada is very proud to have been a contributing member of ICPEN since its inception in 1992, and to have held several leadership roles over those many years.

With new economic challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the recent and rapid rise of the digital economy, the relationships we’ve established over the years with other ICPEN member nations have never been more critical to protecting consumers on a global scale.

Growth of the Digital Economy

Global markets and, by extension, consumers around the world are experiencing rapid and transformative change. With an ever increasing range of options to shop, communicate, socialize, share and find information, consumers have more choices, more opportunities and greater convenience than ever before.

However, despite these benefits and the rapid pace of technological change, we are seeing increased concentration in the marketplace and increased opportunities for fraudsters. This often leaves consumers feeling uncertain and vulnerable to new deceptive marketing practices.

In this context, we continue to administer and enforce Canada’s competition laws in a way that promotes competition and innovation and anticipates and fights new forms of anti-competitive conduct.

And, while the staggering advancement of the digital economy brings many challenges, the current situation has also highlighted the many benefits the digital economy offers during times like these.

In today’s uncertain world, it’s more important than ever that we look ahead to anticipate potential changes and challenges, and develop more agile responses. And, as ICPEN president, Canada will make it its mission to do just that.

2020-21 Program of Work

Let me assure you that Canada’s Competition Bureau is planning an ambitious agenda for our presidential term.

For starters, ICPEN’s current Strategic Plan expires in 2020.

We will work to develop a renewed Strategic Plan for the next three years, while continuing to advance important projects undertaken by the Colombian Presidency.

We know for certain that some areas will be a definite point of focus.

For example, we will ask ourselves how we can all protect consumers from those who would take advantage of COVID-19 as an opportunity to exploit the vulnerable. And we’ll examine global best practices for adapting to COVID-19, especially as it relates to conducting our investigative and consumer protection work remotely.

We will look at artificial intelligence and the challenges it presents for consumer protection across the globe, such as the potential lack of transparency around the use of algorithms in online marketing. We will also look at the potential benefits of AI as an investigative tool.

Another area of focus will be around the issue of personal information. We know that some companies operating in this sphere are using consumers’ data against them, as a tool to influence and manipulate their choices. So data privacy will certainly be a key topic.

With our economies more intertwined and digitally focused, consumers are facing new deceptive tactics that are often difficult to detect. This is why we will continue to build on Columbia’s efforts, as per their slogan, in “Guiding consumers in the digital world”. Our collective work is far from over in this area, and we need continue our efforts and focus on helping both consumers and ICPEN members reap the benefits of the digital economy.  

Increased importance of international collaboration

ICPEN’s successes–in building relationships, in encouraging inter-agency dialogue on consumer protection trends and risks, and in moving the enforcement community toward greater convergence and cooperation–stand as great achievements against fraud and deception.

Cooperation among enforcement agencies is crucial in today’s globalized markets, and more specifically, for matters that have cross-border effects.

We value this cooperation between various agencies, especially our interactions with each other in the course of our enforcement work. We are looking forward to working with all of you to support ICPEN’s important work for consumers.


And, in the spirit of international cooperation, we’d like to know what other priorities you would like us to take on during our term as President.

So, we’ve put together a live poll to capture your feedback, which you’ll be able to take in a few minutes.

We really want to know what’s important to you so that we can best tailor our program of work to address your priorities.

Our kind hosts will provide details on how to share your important feedback following my speech.

Thank you all in advance for taking some time to cast your vote.


In closing, I would like to show you our Team Canada.

These are the individuals who will support our collective efforts and work with you throughout the coming year.

Thank you all for your time today, and  for your faith in Canada’s leadership.

We are grateful for this opportunity, and we look forward to our 2020-2021 term as ICPEN President.

Stay safe and stay healthy. Thank you.

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