Companies should take responsibility for their innovations

Civil and commercial liability remains the underlying issue for parties involved in any legal dispute (Who's liable in driverless train accident?; Jan 6).

It is often simple for a company to introduce a novel concept and practice to the market.

Innovative changes are easy to conceive; one need only think differently and act boldly. Corporate efficiency for revenue generation is the goal, sometimes even at the expense of meeting the needs of the customer.

Everything is plain sailing until serious issues start to emerge during the implementation of the project.

Suddenly, no one - from the highest echelon to the ground employee - is able to pin down the cause of the accident.

The board of directors would aggressively review the decisions made by the senior management, who would readily defend themselves by saying "due diligence" was performed prior to the implementation of the project. The ground and front-line employees would be investigated for incompetence.

The regulator would demand a "board of inquiry" to be formed to determine the cause of the incident.

Taxpayers' money will be spent by public prosecutors to take the service provider to task.

Yet, the damage is done and the impact is suffered by the consumer.

The digital workplace and cryptocurrency services are currently whipping fintech companies and the regulator into an irrational exuberance.

They are a foreshadow of the greater liabilities to come for the business sector.

In the pursuit of new technology, senior management often neglects consumer protection.

Will the robo-financial adviser refund my investment capital losses due to its inability to cope with real-life massive turns of economic events? Why did the regulator allow the absence of the human element in financial advisory services, but put full faith in robotic advice? Who is ultimately responsible for the mal-advice?

Ironically, some companies would blame the consumer by citing "caveat emptor".

Beyond just the standard product warranty, I urge every responsible senior management executive to make a bold service declaration and guarantee the customer that the company will bear the losses and shoulder the blame for any service breakdown due to digital and technological innovation.

George Lim Heng Chye

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2018, with the headline 'Companies should take responsibility for their innovations'. Print Edition | Subscribe