New Consumer Checklist aims to put consumer interests at the heart of e-commerce trade deals
Consumers International launched a new proposal for a Consumer Checklist for international e-commerce deals at a working session at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Public Forum in Geneva this week.
The launch took place at a working session hosted by Consumers International and including panellists from the World Trade Organisation, the International Trade Centre and our German member organisation vzbv. The proposal follows an initiative, launched at the WTO ministerial in December 2017 and supported by more than 90 countries, to move forward with new negotiations for an international e-commerce deal.
E-commerce has grown rapidly in many countries because of the many benefits it offers consumers including greater choice, convenience and lower prices. However future growth depends on maintaining and building consumer trust. This is particularly true in relation to cross border e-commerce when consumers are purchasing from companies in other countries.
In the checklist, Consumers International states that any ‘international agreement on cross border e-commerce must protect consumers and bring them real benefits’, including greater choice, lower prices and safer digital marketplaces. See below for a summary of the key proposals:
- The inclusion of a consumer chapter: The new proposal calls for a consumer chapter to be included in any future trade deal to ensure that consumers’ interests are at the heart of future trade deals.
- Five principles to follow: The chapter itself should set out the principles which trade partners should follow. These include access and inclusion, informed choice, effective protection, product safety and data protection.
- International guidelines and standards: Each section should incorporate relevant points from agreed international guidelines and standards.
- Encouraging international cooperation: The chapter should encourage regulators and enforcement agencies from the participating countries to co-operate through existing international organisations and networks including the United Nations, the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) and international standards bodies to improve all aspects of consumer protection. In addition, regulators may set up voluntary co-operation networks in parallel to an e-commerce agreement.
- Transparent and inclusive negotiations: Negotiations for any future e-commerce deal should be transparent, and multi-stakeholder dialogues should be encouraged both nationally and internationally, so that consumer organisations and representatives can know what is being negotiated and play an informed and active role in the process.