OECD governments have taken a significant step forward by agreeing on a set of guidelines to help protect consumers in the electronic marketplace.
The Guidelines for Consumer Protection in the Context of Electronic Commerce, approved by the OECD's Council, will help to ensure that consumers get the same level of protection when shopping on-line as they would when shopping at their local store or from catalogues.
"The Guidelines will play a major role in assisting governments, business and consumer representatives facilitate on-line consumer protection mechanisms, without erecting barriers to trade, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman, Professor Allan Fels, said today.
"The principle of the Guidelines is that consumers shopping on-line should enjoy the same level of protection as traditional shoppers, he said.
The Guidelines follow 18 months of discussions among representatives of OECD governments and business and consumer organisations.
The Guidelines also stress the importance of transparency and information disclosure, and call for:
- fair business, advertising and marketing practices;
- clear information about an online business's identity, the goods or services it offers and the terms and conditions of any transaction;
- a transparent process for the confirmation of transactions; secure payment mechanisms;
- fair, timely and affordable dispute resolution and redress; and
- privacy protection; and
- consumer and business education.
"The Guidelines will raise consumer confidence and help electronic commerce to realise its full potential, Professor Fels said.
"The ACCC has advocated for the Guidelines to be finalised and encourages businesses conducting electronic commerce to implement them.
The Guidelines are non-binding, but reflect existing legal protections available to consumers in more traditional forms of commerce".
The Guidelines are available from the ACCC'S website: http://www.accc.gov.au.
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