CPC, online marketers: Guiding principles necessary for robust e-commerce

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The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) and senior management of online marketing companies in Nigeria have set up five guiding principles to regulate the operation of e-commerce in the country.

Mr Babatunde Irukera, the Director- General of CPC, said this in Abuja, while addressing newsmen at the end of a meeting between both parties.

Irukera said that the meeting was held in view of the dramatic rise in e-commerce in Nigeria, with global online shopping reaching 2.29 trillion dollars in 2017, but with 70 percent of Nigerian consumers worried about the safety of their transactions.

He said that the principles were considered vital to the protection of consumers in the industry and relevant to business guidance and a regulatory framework.

According to Irukera, the council and the online marketing companies mutually agreed to abide by the said principles.

“Online marketers recognize that a dedicated customer service apparatus, which is an indispensable corollary of e-commerce is required to ensure engagement and a complaint resolution process which is not burdensome to the customer.

“Online market platforms recognize the importance of full, frank and complete disclosures of any terms, conditions, exceptions or restrictions on products marketed on their platforms.’’

Others are that online marketers also recognize the need to promote consumer confidence and eliminate distrust.

He said that advertisement of products should be truthful, transparent and factual, including current/future availability, specifications, merchantable conditions, quality and relevant warranty information.

Irukera also said that part of the principles was that online market platforms recognize that timely delivery was a material and vital term of the contract/agreement between platforms and their customers.

“As such, timely delivery including reasonable and fair return windows, prompt and efficient refunds and respect for cancellations in accordance with prevailing policy, are a matter of contractual obligations.

“Online marketers recognize and respect the privacy of consumers and the need to protect such privacy by securing and only disclosing consumer data/personal information by operation of law or in accordance with consumer preferences.’’

He said that the meeting also resolved that parties commit to a broad-based stakeholder engagement to further promote and develop the principles, business guidance and regulatory framework.

Irukera said that there would be sanctions for erring marketers as would be contained in the framework.

“Regulatory regimes must have a consequence management system for it to be meaningful and worthwhile and so one of the things that will come out of the institutionalized guideline framework will be sanctions for inappropriate behaviour.”

He, however, said that both parties recognized the urgency required and as such agreed that the engagement and the guidance development process must occur and conclude shortly and timely.

The meeting was held to commemorate the World Consumer Rights Day 2018, which is celebrated on March 15 every year.

This year’s celebration has as its theme: “Making the Digital Marketplaces Fairer.’’

Amaka E. Nliam