E-commerceChecklist ensures consumer protection in international e-commerce

At this week's WTO Public Forum on e-commerce in Geneva, Consumers International, the umbrella organization of consumer associations worldwide, together with its German member organization vzbv presented its Consumer Checklist for international e-commerce deals.

On the notion that future e-commerce growth depends largely on consumer trust, especially regarding international purchases online, this proposal calls for new negotiations for an international e-commerce deal that advocate consumer benefit and protection.

These are the proposal's main points:

  • Consumer chapter: Any international agreement on e-commerce should include a chapter on consumer issues to ensure consumer protection and roll-out benefits.

  • Five principles: The consumer chapter itself encompasses the five principles of access and inclusion, informed choice, effective protection, product safety as well as data protection – all of which trade partners should follow.

  • International cooperation: The consumer chapter is to encourage regulators and enforcement agencies from different countries to co-operate through existing international organizations and networks – among others the UN or the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN).

  • Transparent negotiations: Negotiations on future e-commerce deals should be transparent encouraging multi-stakeholder dialogues both on a national and international level. The object of negotiation should be clear for consumer organizations so that they are informed and can participate in the process.

On the five consumer principles:

  • Access and inclusion: The needs of vulnerable consumers groups and consumers with disabilities should be acknowledged in website design and payments or delivery procedures.

  • Informed choice: Consumers need clear, accurate and easily accessible information about what they purchase online.

  • Effective protection: Consumers must be treated fairly and guaranteed the same level of protection as in any other branch of commerce. For instance, consumers must be able to explicitly agree to a purchase and receive a receipt.

  • Product safety: Products that pose a risk to health and safety should not be sold – neither online nor offline.

  • Data protection: Consumers should have full control over their personal data – in terms of data collection, usage or transfer.

Source: Consumers International

More information, BEUC press statement and the Consumer Checklist