From next month, consumers who buy goods and services over the internet will have greater assurance of local merchants' probity up front, and perhaps the added force of an international "seal of approval".
The eMarketing Standards Authority (eMSA) will have its provisionally-named "Trustmark" seal of approval for fairly trading websites ready to go by the end of June, says Sylvia Devlin, the Direct Marketing Association's (DMA's) regulatory and consumer affairs manager.
The eMSA is a joint effort of the Advertising Standards Authority and the DMA. Earlier this year, it drafted a code of practice for internet-based merchants and advertisers who belong to the two founding associations.
Devlin says "Trustmark" is only a working name for the badge, which will be displayed on a conforming website with backup documentation. "We have expressed interest in joining the established Global Trustmark system."
This scheme was originated in the US by the Global Business Dialogue on e-commerce (GBDe), and involves 72 e-commerce and communications companies across the world. It is setting up a globally applicable dispute resolution process.
The trustmark in New Zealand will be a signal that the proprietors of the website adhere to the eMSA Code of Practice, and to any further decisions made by the association's Complaints Appeal Board. This includes DMA and ASA representatives, but a majority of members are from consumer organisations, Devlin says, however, the board will probably be called into action only over major amounts, of "thousands of dollars". For a transaction "of the $29.95 type" where some fraud or misrepresentation is suspected, "it probably won't be worth [the customer's while]" to bring a complaint for something not already covered in the code of practice, she says.