OECD seeks to protect online shoppers

Stop! There's an Internet thief about

Online shoppers could get greater protection from rogue traders if internationally recognised consumer protection guidelines are introduced this week at a top level meeting in Paris. The Consumer Policy Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) will seek to offer e-consumers protection against unscrupulous e-tailers and include a mechanism for redress if things go wrong. The OECD lso outline a set of recommendations concerning best practice and provide clear guidelines concerning the collection and use of personal information. According to Consumers International -- a federation of some 245 consumer organisations in 111 countries -- the rules are essential and long overdue. "The important point is to get some baseline protection in place so that consumers can have confidence in using electronic commerce," said Louise Sylvan, VP of Consumers International and CE of the Australian Consumers' Association. But she warned that the guidelines might not be adopted by the Consumer Policy Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) because of opposition by the business community. Business opposition has been one of the main stumbling blocks to passage of the guidelines and once again industry is lobbying hard to weaken them -- by turning the detailed, practical content into a set of vague general principles, she said. But the Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC), which represents private sector views, denied it was dragging its heels. A spokesman for the Paris-based organisation told The Register that while the guidelines had improved, there was still room for improvement. Sylvan is unimpressed. "Electronic commerce will flourish only when consumers are reassured of real protection in the areas of privacy, security and redress. "Enough people are starting to use e-commerce that its potential can really take off, or it will start to produce horror stories and will falter from mistrust," she said. In April Consumers International published a report that showed that e-shoppers were getting a raw deal from e-commerce. Among the findings it discovered that around five per cent of items ordered took over a month to reach their destination and at least eight per cent never arrived. ® Daily Net Finance News from The Register

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