Consumer protection

Updates

During an Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), where evidence from various online companies such as Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and Google on the initiatives taken by them to combat child abuse online was heard, Facebook has been accused of leaving 'broken children as collateral damage' for their commercial aims.

Barrister William Chapman, representing the abused victims, argued that the social media companies were not taking adequate measures to prevent paedophiles from reaching out to  children online due to their business models and that the time had come for these platforms to be ‘fundamentally redesigned’. Few recommendations shared by the victims before the inquiry for the tech companies included paying compensation to the children abused by their services and to ban posing as a child online, without reasonable excuse.

 
 

US President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order on Securing the Information and Communications Technology and Services Supply Chain on 15 May. The order declares a state of emergency due to increased adversarial cyber-enabled actions, including economic and industrial espionage against the USA and its people. The order requires the US Secretary of Commerce to minimize the risks from foreign companies controlled by adversaries and deprive them from the American market from selling equipment and technologies as well as buying from US companies. The order is seen as clearly directed against China and its IT giant Huawei. Huawei was placed on the Entity List, a trade blacklist, that requires US companies to get government approval to engage in business with entities on the list. Google has suspended business operations with Huawei stating the Chinese tech giant will ’immediately lose access to updates to the Android operating system, and the next version of its smartphones outside of China will also lose access to popular applications and services including the Google Play Store and Gmail app’.

In the beginning of May, WhatsApp discovered that the service was used to install a sophisticated surveillance malware on an unknown number of smartphones. The hackers used the security flaw in WhatsApp’s voice calling function that enabled them to run ‘a remote code execution via specially crafted series of secure real-time transport protocol (SRTCP) packets sent to a target phone number’. The infection by the malicious code would happen even if the call had not been answered. The vulnerability enabled hackers to read messages on the target's device with interception tools  bypassing the end-to-end encryption used in WhatsApp.
The scale of infected devices is unknown yet, but researchers claim the attack targeted  a small number of human rights activists. The surveillance software was attributed by the Financial Times to the Israeli NSO Group, famous for its Pegasus program used by some governments to intercept the communications of human rights activists. However, the NSO Group denied its involvement in the attack. WhatsApp encouraged people to upgrade to the latest version of the app on Android, iOS, and Windows phone devices.



 

Technology companies, Facebook, Google, Apple, BT, and Microsoft have been accused of failing to prevent the online abuse of children. and will have to provide evidence on the adequacy of initiatives taken by them to prevent online abuse before the independent inquiry being held into sexual abuse of children in UK.

Opening the proceedings on Monday, legal counsel Jacqueline Carey shared cases of child abuse online and its devastating impact on their lives.The tech giants would have to provide evidence within the next ten days.

 

The UK’s National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on child protection, Simon Bailey suggests that the only way to force social media companies to pay attention and initiate steps to protect children online is a public boycott. He shared that currently he has not seen any initiatives taken by social media companies that indicate their sincerity to safeguarding children online. He added ‘Ultimately I think the only thing they will genuinely respond to is when their brand is damaged. Ultimately the financial penalties for some of the giants of this world are going to be an absolute drop in the ocean’.

 

 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was approached by four US Senators alongside a coalition of 19 civil society organisations (headed by Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, and the Center for Digital Democracy) to launch an investigation into whether Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition violates the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The coalition presented the commission with research which exposed, among others, the following vulnerabilities of the system: it is not clear what personal information the device collects, how it uses that information, and whether it shares the information with third parties; Amazon’s system for obtaining parental consent is inadequate and it keeps the audio recordings of children’s voices far longer than necessary; and finally even when parents delete some or all of the recordings of their child, the company does not necessarily delete all of the child’s personal information.

Consumer trust is one of the main preconditions for the success of e-commerce. E-commerce is still relatively new and consumers are not as confident with it as with real-world shopping. Consumer protection is an important legal method for developing trust in e-commerce. E-commerce regulation should protect customers in a number of areas, such as online handling of payment card information; misleading advertising; delivery of defective products.

 

A new idiosyncrasy of e-commerce is the internationalisation of consumer protection, which is not a vital issue in traditional commerce. In the past, consumers rarely needed international protection. Consumers were buying locally and therefore needed local customer protection. With e-commerce, an increasing number of transactions take place across international borders.

Jurisdiction is a significant issue surrounding consumer protection. It involves two main approaches. The first favours the seller (mainly e-business) and is a country-of-origin/prescribed-by-seller approach. In this scenario, e-commerce companies have the advantage of relying on a predictable and well-known legal environment. The other approach, which favours the customer, is a country-of-destination approach.

The main disadvantage for e-commerce companies is the potential for exposure to a wide variety of legal jurisdictions. One possible solution to this dilemma is a more intensive harmonisation of consumer protection rules, making the question of jurisdiction less relevant. As with other e-commerce issues, the OECD assumed the lead by adopting the 1999 Guidelines for Consumer Protection in the Context of E-commerce and the 2003 Guidelines for Protecting Consumers from Fraudulent and Deceptive Commercial Practices Across Borders. The main principles established by the OECD are still valid and have been adopted by other business associations, including the International Chamber of Commerce and the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

The EU offers a high level of e-commerce consumer protection and promotes awareness campaigns on online shopping issues. The problem of jurisdiction has been solved via the Brussels I Regulation, which stipulates that consumers will always have recourse to local legal protection. The recast Brussels I Regulation, applicable as of January 2015, further harmonises the rules of jurisdiction by extending the situations under which individuals not domiciled in the EU can be sued by consumers in the courts of EU member states.

More than half of EU consumers (53%) made at least one purchase online in the 12 months to September 2012, almost doubling since 2006. Yet just 15% purchased online from vendors outside their own country. This is reflected in the confidence rating: while 53% feel comfortable purchasing from online domestic retailers, only 36% feel comfortable buying online from another EU country.

At global level, no apposite international legal instruments have been established. One of the most apt, the 1980 UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, does not cover consumer contracts and consumer protection.

A number of private associations and non-governmental organisations also focus on consumer e-commerce protection, including Consumers International, the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network, and Consumer Reports WebWatch.

The future development of e-commerce will require either the harmonisation of national laws or a new international regime for e-commerce customer protection.

Events

Actors

(OECD)

Convergence is one of the digital policy issues that the OECD is paying attention to, especially in relation t

...

Convergence is one of the digital policy issues that the OECD is paying attention to, especially in relation to the challenges this phenomenon brings on traditional markets, and the need for adequate policy and regulatory frameworks to address them. In 2008, the organisation issued a set of policy guidelines for regulators to take into account when addressing challenges posed by convergence. In 2016, a report issued in preparation for the OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy included new recommendations for policy-makers. Digital convergence issues have been on the agenda of OECD Ministerial meetings since 2008, and are also tackled in the regular OECD Digital Economy Outlook report.

(CI)

Consumers International undertakes several activities focusing on promoting consumer protection in the digital

...

Consumers International undertakes several activities focusing on promoting consumer protection in the digital environment and creating a #BetterDigitalWorld. In 2016, it published a report on Connection and Protection in the Digital Age, discussing the extent to which existing consumer protection frameworks can address challenges brought by new technologies such as the Internet of Things. In March 2017, it submitted a series of recommendations to G20 member states on Building a Digital World Consumers Can Trust. The organisation also contributed to the elaboration of the ISO 12812 Core banking – mobile financial services standard, and elaborated a briefing paper on mobile payments.

(EU)

In establishing its digital single market, the EU has progressively developed a dense 

...

In establishing its digital single market, the EU has progressively developed a dense copyright legislation corresponding to a set of ten directives, which harmonise essential rights of authors, performers, producers and broadcasters. To ensure EU copyright rules are fit for the digital age, the European Commission has recently presented legislative proposals to modernise the EU legal framework, in order to allow more cross-border access to content online and wider opportunities to use copyrighted materials in education, research and cultural heritage; and have a better functioning copyright marketplace.

(ICPEN)

ICPEN carries out several activities and initiatives related to consumers’ protection in the online environmen

...

ICPEN carries out several activities and initiatives related to consumers’ protection in the online environment. The Network’s website contains a series of recommendation for staying safe while buying and selling online, especially with regard to sharing personal and financial information online. It also provides advice on how consumers can resolve cross-border disputes related to online transactions and what entities they can refer to. The econsumer.gov platform was launched by ICPEN with the aim to provide individuals with the possibility to file complaints about cross-border fraud transactions and learn about dispute resolution mechanisms.

(ICC)

ICC engages in the WTO particularly representing micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

...

ICC engages in the WTO particularly representing micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). In 2016 ICC issued a report calling for a new WTO agreement on e-commerce. ICC’s objective is to have an e-commerce framework that is more open to MSMEs. The report recommends three main actions: a capacity building fund for SMEs; making trade more efficient for SME for instance through harmonised tariffs for low value items; and global rules to support consumer trust in the digital economy. ICC has also carried out research on trans-border data flows.

(UNCTAD)

UNCTAD is very active in the field of e-commerce.

...

UNCTAD is very active in the field of e-commerce. It assists developing countries in developing e-commerce legislation, through its e-Commerce and Law Reform Programme. The entity has launched the eTrade for All initiative, aimed to improving the ability of developing countries to use and benefit from e-commerce.  As part of its ICT Policy Review Programme, UNCTAD undertakes reviews, research, and analysis on e-commerce-related issues. It also reviews national policies and provides policy advice to countries on areas such as developing e-commerce strategies and devising measures to strengthen e-commerce. UNCTAD holds an annual E-Commerce Week, featuring events focusing on specific policy areas of e-commerce.

Instruments

Conventions

Judgements

Resolutions & Declarations

Recommendations

Other Instruments

COMESA Model law on electronic transactions

Resources

Publications

Internet Governance Acronym Glossary (2015)
An Introduction to Internet Governance (2014)

Papers

Personal Data Storage in Russia (2015)

Reports

Virtual Currencies and Beyond: Initial Considerations (2016)
Report on OTT Services (2016)
2015 In Retrospect (Vol. 4) (2016)
OECD Digital Economy Outlook 2015 (2015)

GIP event reports

Protecting human rights in public policy: What role for business? (2018)
Electronic Commerce and Inclusiveness of Global Value Chains (2018)

Processes

Click on the ( + ) sign to expand each day.

WSIS Forum 2019

UNCTAD 2019

13th IGF 2018

UNCTAD 2018

WSIS Forum 2018

WTO Public Forum 2017

IGF 2015

 

The GIP Digital Watch observatory is provided by

 

 

and members of the GIP Steering Committee



 

GIP Digital Watch is operated by

Scroll to Top