On 24 March 2016, the OECD presented its revised Recommendation for Consumer Protection in the Context of Electronic Commerce. Since the original publication in the year 1999, the practices in online trading have evolved dramatically. Thus, the revised guidelines now address emerging trends and challenges faced by consumers in today’s dynamic e-commerce marketplace. Specifically, it entails details on approaches to fair business practices, information disclosures, payment protection, unsafe products, dispute resolution and enforcement. The recommendations focus on the following points:
- Non-monetary transactions: More and more consumers acquire “free” goods and services in exchange for their personal data. Governments and stakeholders are called upon to consider ways to provide redress to consumers experiencing a problem with such transactions.
- Digital content products: Transactions regarding digital content often come with technical or contractual access and usage limitations. Since many consumers have problems understanding their rights and obligations, consumers should be provided with clear information about such limitations.
- Active consumers: Current e-commerce business models increasingly blur the boundary between consumers and businesses, with consumers playing a participatory role in product promotion and development, and entering into transactions with other consumers. Against this background, it is recommended to facilitate consumer-to-consumer transactions and to provide information on its utility truthfully and transparently.
The non legally binding recommendation further declares that businesses should not misrepresent or hide terms and conditions important for purchase decisions or attempt to conceal their identity or location. Instead of engaging in deceptive practices related to the collection or use of personal data, businesses should take special care in marketing targeted at children or other vulnerable consumers.