Isabelle Buscke – the voice of the consumer

Isabelle Buscke heads the Brussels office of the vzbv.

She is the woman for digital in the Brussels office of the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzbv): Isabelle Buscke. Even during her political studies, the German-French citizen was bothered by the fact that there were practically only three operating systems for computers on the market: Apple, Windows, and Linux. That was one of the reasons why she finally decided to work in the “fantastic political field of consumer protection” instead of becoming a teacher, as she had planned.

Buscke also briefly tried her hand at a political party but decided early on that non-party political work suited her more – specifically at the European level. “I’m driven by European politics, more than national politics.” With her Franco-German background, she says, her path into EU politics was almost preordained. “It shapes you to grow up so closely with two nationalities and points of view,” says the 35-year-old.

In the meantime, she even acquired a third nationality: Belgian. For twelve years now, she has been living in Brussels, “the heart of EU politics”, as she affectionately calls the city. As head of the Brussels office, she has represented consumers from Germany for almost ten years, working on major projects such as the abolition of roaming. Unsurprisingly, the topics of digitization and climate protection are currently at the top of the consumer protection agenda.

Fight against greenwashing

In the case of the latter, the main issue is the regulation of designations such as “particularly resource-friendly”, or “produced in a climate-neutral way”, in order to effectively combat greenwashing. “Our wish would have been a central body to review these claims, as EFSA does for claims about food.” Currently, however, there is at least a uniform methodology to make the claims verifiable and, if necessary, to sanction companies if such a claim turned out to be false.

Buscke’s heartfelt topic, however, is and remains the digitization of everyday life. One major problem that the EU has not yet answered satisfactorily from the consumer’s point of view is the question of regulating trading platforms. Here, companies are happy to shirk their responsibility if third-party providers violate consumers’ rights, says Buscke.

Equally relevant, but still in the early stages of negotiations, is the regulation of artificial intelligence. Here, consumer advocates are primarily concerned with the question of whether only high-risk AI systems are really risky for consumers, or whether the focus should not already be lower, at medium risk. “Currently, we are still focusing too much on fundamental rights and the integrity of life and limb. That’s important, of course, but we also want economic aspects to be taken into account,” says Buscke.

Artificial intelligence could, for example, ensure that a consumer doesn’t get the insurance he or she would like to have because the algorithm is subject to its own rules. “So there can be direct consumer harm. It’s an issue that I think will be with us for the next few years.” But for now, without her – starting at the end of August, Buscke will take a few months of parental leave. Lisa-Martina Klein

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