Refusing customers to your service, is an interesting theme opened by the Wikileaks issue. Are businesses allowed to refuse customers? Many would argue that this is allowed. I learned it even in my Services Management courses. But to me not all services are created equal. There are some services that I see as fundamental. These fundamental services are part of the infrastructure of society. Without these services society does not work and disallowing service access for some people equals to a judicial sentence.
Before moving to Internet services, let’s look at some regular services.
Public transportation, such as bus, train or plane transport can be seen as fundamental. Disallowing access to transport implies that one can not well function in a society. Not being able to go to work, hospital, etc. is surely a punishment.
For shopping services one can argue the same. Not being able to get your groceries will surely put you in trouble. And not being able to pay for your groceries as well, which brings us to payment services. If you deny a bank account to someone, the person can no longer receive his wages, pay for his bills or use a payment card in a shop. This surely denies the person a good participation in society. Therefore transaction and banking services should be seen as fundamental services.
This argument of fundamental services is well defended in the NY Times editorial. And surely not everyone agrees with this. However by now we see some financial services as essential and worthy of protection by governments. So clearly there is a discussion of fundamental services that must be protected.
However does there exist the concept of fundamental consumer services? Services where businesses can not deny access? In some countries Internet Access are seen as a fundamental right, which can not be denied to its citizens.
I wonder whether these fundamental services are a new concept? This might be due to the fact that parts of society are now dominated by businesses and they can determine who gets access. In the past we did not have those large businesses. I can think of the postal services, but usage of their services is (was) pretty anonymous. Nobody knew who put the stamp on the letter. With the electricity service things already become unclear. Can they deny service to persons that they do not like? I think not. They can only deny service to persons that do not pay and even that might be hard in some countries. The same is true for telecommunication services. Depending on the country the minimal service is that one can call 112 (911), so there is a view on a minimal fundamental service as well.
Internet has complicated these things even further. If you want to see Paypal as a fundamental service, you should see Internet Access as a fundamental service. In a few countries this has happened, although in others three strike laws seem to go in the other direction. It seems no services on top of Internet are seen as fundamental. As Internet progresses I guess such a discussion will be inevitable. These services will be the same as the classic ones (mail, payment). And even hosting might be seen as fundamental for press freedom.
There should be a discussion on fundamental right services. These are services that are defined and protected by law. If a business offers a service in this category, then businesses can not deny access to customers. Only judicial intervention can deny access.
Examples of such services are:
And probably there are more.