Consumer Protection: Background

It is widely accepted that trust and confidence among consumers is key to the success of e-commerce. Without these, the Internet will not be able to survive as a valid marketplace for commercial transactions. Traditional rights and protections to which consumers have become accustomed in the offline world need to be applied in the online environment. The Internet poses new challenges to these rights and expectations. For example: How does the consumer inspect and examine a product in the way to which they are accustomed in the brick and mortar world? How does the consumer verify that the business with which they are transacting even exists in real space and that it will honor its commitment to provide the product or service paid for by the consumer? What kind of after sales protection does a consumer have? What kind of terms that should be included in warranties and licenses? What kind of disclosures or information should the consumer be entitled to before they are said to have “consented” to the transaction? Should he or she have the chance to “review” the order before it is finalized? Is “one click” acceptance valid? If the business fails to honor it’s commitment what right does a consumer have to sue that business? Assuming the consumer can locate the business in what jurisdiction should the cause of action take place? Should it be in the consumer’s home country, the “country of destination” or should it be in the “country of origin”, the country where the business is officially based? Even if the consumer does get a declaratory judgement in his/ her home country how is that judgement enforced against the merchant? What options are there for consumers who have dispute concerning low value transactions? Should there be alternative methods for dispute resolution where it is not economically viable to initiate a legal claim? Who should set the standards for these kinds of ADR programs? Whereas these kind of questions were once issues to be decided by national and regional governments, in the border-less world of cyber-space fairness and predictability within the marketplace have become a global concern. The resources below point to documents and organizations that attempt to answer some of these questions and set baseline protections for consumers in the 21st century.