OECD attempts to guide e-commerce

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has released a set of guidelines for protecting online consumers.

The "Guidelines for Consumer Protection in the Context of Electronic Commerce" are designed to ensure consumers have as much protection while shopping online, as they do when purchasing offline.

The result of 18 months of discussions between OECD governments and business and consumer organisations, the guidelines are expected to play a major role in assisting those groups to develop and implement online consumer protection without erecting trade barriers, according to the OECD.

The guidelines stress the importance of transparency and information disclosure.

They call for fair business, advertising and marketing practices and clear information about an online business's identity, the goods or services it offers, and the terms and conditions of any transaction.

A transparent process for the confirmation of transactions; secure payment mechanisms; fair, timely and affordable dispute resolution and redress; privacy protection; and consumer and business education are also addressed by the guidelines.

The guidelines, while non-binding, reflect existing legal protections available to consumers in more traditional forms of commerce.

They are intended to encourage private sector initiatives that include the participation of consumer representatives, and emphasise the need for co-operation among governments, businesses and consumers at both the national and international level.

Australia is a member nation of the OECD.

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