Recent headlines in the news have made it seem like large corporations are becoming more evil than ever before, or at the very least more prone to abusing the power that they have. We heard about Turing Pharmaceuticals and Mylan hitting customers with insane price increases for HIV medication and EpiPens. We learned that Wells Fargo fraudulently opened over 2 million accounts without customer authorization. Then it was revealed that not only did Yahoo suffer a data breach which compromised over 500 million users’ data, but that they were also scanning users’ emails and providing the information to the US government. Additionally, Comcast was just fined by the FCC for $2.3 million due to its practice of adding charges for items that consumers didn’t explicitly turn down.
Unfortunately, some of the above examples aren’t things that consumers can directly avoid or protect themselves against. If you need medication to manage HIV or are allergic and at risk of dying from anaphylaxis, your options are limited. For the other examples most consumers at least have options. They can close their Wells Fargo accounts and take their money to a bank that doesn’t defraud consumers—an action customers need to take as the scandal hasn’t hurt the bank too much.
Users can also quit using Yahoo Mail and switch over to free email provided by Microsoft, Google, or a variety of other providers. Switching email addresses can be a pain, but isn’t it worthwhile to leave a company that not only can’t keep consumer data secure, but also spies for the US government? Comcast is another company that can be difficult for consumers to avoid. They have a monopoly on high-speed internet in some areas, but often consumers have choices when it comes to television and landlines.
The real lesson for consumers is to vote with their business, despite any inconvenience. We should be willing to take our business elsewhere and spend the time to check our billing statements for unfamiliar or unauthorized charges. Sadly—but realistically—companies are unlikely to change their behavior unless it affects their bottom line. Maybe more companies need to adopt Google’s motto, “Don’t be evil”.
-Aaron Baldwin, Senior Designer