SON, CPC, others canvass proper regulation for eCommerce


•Consumers lament underhand dealings by vendors, platforms

For a more robust and efficient electronic commerce (eCommerce) sub-sector, a regulatory framework is seriously desired, according to the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), and others.This was the consensus by participants at a stakeholders’ forum with the theme: The Role of Standards and Quality Regulation in Electronic Commerce, organised by SON in Lagos, on Tuesday.
   
The Guardian checks showed that Nigeria’s eCommerce sector is estimated to worth $13billion, with over 400,000 orders daily. It has players including Konga, which recently merged operations with Yudala. Other operators include Jumia, Gloo.ng, Dealdey, Kaymu, Wakanow, and a host of many others.
  
The need for a regulatory framework was borne from the need to improve the level of customers trust, and ensure quality for money spent in the sub-sector.The Director-General, SON, Osita Anthony Aboloma, represented by the Director, Corporate Affairs, Dr. Paul Angya, said the promotion of awareness on standards and quality regulation in the eCommerce sector has become necessary, as the drive for digitalised market places increase, and the pressure on the standards community mounts.

  
According to him, these require that all stakeholders reckon fully with the realities of the competitive and fast-paced global economy.Aboloma noted that with the increasing volumes of consumer complaints being received on the quality of products sold online by the SON, CPC, and other sister regulatory agencies, it has become necessary to have a robust regulatory framework in place for the sector.
  
He said products like mobile phones; electrical and electronic devices cannot be physically viewed and tested before purchase online, while the claims on what they can do have been found in many cases to be inaccurate, or sometimes out-rightly false.
  
SON Director, Product Compliance Directorate, Tersoo Orngudwem, said eCommerce as an application of the Internet technology is accelerating fast, and reaching out to the huge market, but the law is needed to set the standards in commerce. The law will aslo regulate social order, safeguard reasonable consumer expectation in cyberspace, and impose punishment for anti-social behaviour.
 
Orngudwem noted that standards are needed to prescribe the limits to permissible conduct, which are to be applied according to the circumstances of each case.“Stringent security requirements must be in place to protect companies from threats like publishing attacks (credit card fraud), data errors or they risk jeopardising revenue and customer trust, due to the inability to guarantee safe credit card processing,” he stated.
   
According to him, technology continues to move forward at the speed of light and eCommerce is evolving rapidly along with it, adding: “Technology can provide relevant real-time information between retailer and consumer
  
“Currently, the Internet and its various ecommerce mutations are a very chaotic system. Standards will provide some structure to this chaos. It is expected that this structure will reduce uncertainty and variance in the system, thus boosting organisational and consumer confidence in the system.”
  
From his perspective, the Director-General, CPC, Babatunde Irukera, said the eCommerce sector needed stronger regulations to stay afloat and offer services effectively.Irukera, who urged eCommerce operators to have a standalone customer unit, said this would aid complaint resolution mechanism, adding that there must be full product disclosure; transparent and factual advertising and warranty information; timely delivery of claims, right to privacy of consumers, among others.
  
He stressed the need to institutionalise consequent management system across the entire ecosystem of the sub-sector to make the process more seamless.Participants at the forum raised issues including underhand dealings by vendors; delay in delivery of shopped items; fictitious items, withholding of consumer funds in botched transactions, among others.
    
In the Communiqué issued at the end of the forum, it was agreed that local content development should be given adequate attention and protection so as to develop the economy; and the need to define new or review existing penalties to financial service providers for withholding consumer funds in botched transaction by financial service providers
  
The Communiqué also stressed the need for a regulatory framework for e-commerce, which should prioritise consumer protection; as manufacturers, distributors, retailers all have a role to play in protecting the consumer. Also, the responsibilities for being the middle man in e-commerce processes must be well defined and that traditional commerce and e-commerce return and refund policies must be well defined and differentiated, and many others.
 
 



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