Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation E-Commerce Report On OECD Guidelines For Consumer Protection

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Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Electronic Commerce Steering Group Workshop on Consumer Protection Consumer Protection in E-Commerce Report on OECD Guidelines for Consumer Protection in the context of Electronic Commerce 20 July 2000 Mr Allan Asher Member of the OECD Committee for Consumer Policy INTRODUCTION About one-fifth of total electronic commerce is accounted for by business-toconsumer transactions. Consumer and user trust is essential for its future development. Cooperation by business and consumer organisations in developing a united approach to the development of consumer protection strategies for e-commerce is a vital step in improving the extent of consumer protection and consequently consumer confidence in this new way of doing business. Such international cooperation can and is being achieved through international networks like the OECD's Committee on Consumer Policy (CCP) which has been successful in building consensus among government, business and civil society. Both business and consumer organisations now participate in the committee's work and regularly attend its meetings and the CCP has proven to offer an excellent opportunity for international cooperation and the development of consumer protection standards for global commerce. THE GUIDELINES At the end of 1999, and after 18 months of negotiation, the OECD completed and adopted Guidelines for Consumer Protection in the Context of Electronic Commerce. The Guidelines set out the core characteristics of effective consumer protection for on-line business-to-consumer transactions. These Guidelines are proving helpful to governments, business, and consumers in very practical ways in trying to deal with this new environment as they provide instructive principles for both applying existing laws and developing new ones if necessary as they work to establish consumer protection mechanisms for e-commerce. The Guidelines are a first step in encouraging a global approach to consumer protection in the on-line marketplace, a sector that is inherently international -borderless. They facilitate on-line commerce consumer protection mechanisms without erecting barriers to trade and by increasing consumer confidence in ecommerce, they have the ability to help e-commerce reach its full potential. Eight simple concepts form the basis of the recommendations. They are:

Transparent and Effective Protection. E-commerce consumers should be no less protected when shopping on-line than when they buy from their local store or order from a catalogue. Fair Business, Advertising and Marketing Practices. Advertising should be clearly identifiable. Businesses should respect consumers' choices not to receive e-mail they don't want. Business should take special care when targeting children, elderly, and others who may lack the capacity to understand the information as presented. On-line Disclosures About the Business, the Goods and Services, and the Transaction. Disclosure should include complete and accurate information about the business, about the goods or services for sale and about how the transaction is made. What this means is that e-customers should know which business they are really dealing with. They should have a complete description of what they are buying. And they should have enough information about the transaction process to be able to make an informed decision. Confirmation Process. The confirmation process for a sale should give the consumer a chance to see what he has agreed to buy and to change his mind if he wants before the purchase is completed. Secure Payment Systems. Payment systems need to be secure and easy to use. Redress. In an international transaction, redress is one of the most difficult areas to address, and the OECD recommendations recognise that further work is needed. The Guidelines articulate the principle that international e-commerce transactions are subject to an existing framework on applicable law and jurisdiction, but that it may be