Are consumers unprotected? Cineplex and Meta under heat for questionable practices
Recent cases of consumer exploitation involving two major companies might encourage people to take extra care when buying goods and using services.

In a fight between profit and ethics, there’s a vicious battle between consumer protection and corporate greed. 

In May 2023, the Canadian Competition Bureau sued Cineplex for engaging in drip pricing, a practice that ultimately manipulates the customer’s shopping experience while tricking them into spending more on their final purchase. Later, in February 2024, various European consumer rights groups criticized Meta—the parent company of Facebook and Instagram—for its data-gathering processes of users in the region. 

Dr. Eric Dolansky, an associate professor of marketing at Brock University, describes drip pricing as situations where “you think you’re paying a certain amount, and then before you complete the transaction, you find out there are additional fees.” Customers who purchase movie tickets through the Cineplex website will find an “online booking fee” near the end of the purchase process, often an unwelcoming surprise. 

On the note of consumer violation, The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) has complained that Meta collects unnecessary amounts of information from users. Customers of both Facebook and Meta face unease as BEUC alleges Meta is breaching data privacy by collecting information on users’ “sexual orientation, emotional state, or even their susceptibility to addiction.” Meta denies these claims. Meanwhile, since Cineplex implemented their drip pricing strategy, the company gained nearly C$40 million from the extra charges implemented in 2022. 

While governments aim to protect consumers from deceptive marketing practices, including drip pricing and unauthorized data collection, companies driven by self-interest often exploit regulations currently in place. A mandate in Canada’s Competition Act makes such deceptive marketing practices illegal. Likewise, Meta’s tactics prove to violate the European Union’s signature data privacy law.

With the use of “manipulative” practices, companies are feeding into the public view that governments and businesses are not protecting or serving our needs. The growing distrust in companies lowers consumer confidence and contains broader implications for societal well-being. Both Meta and Cineplex shoppers feel betrayed, realizing their personal data and financial interests are exploited for corporate gains. Feels familiar?

While it seems there isn’t much you can do, your voice is powerful. By choosing to avoid companies that engage in unethical practices, you send a strong message. Your purchasing decisions shape the behaviour of businesses and can ultimately influence industry standards.

In the modern world, data is currency. As students, be cautious of the information you hand out. Together, with awareness and advocacy, we can work toward a fair and transparent marketplace that protects and serves customers. 


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