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Consumer protection

2018

On the sidelines of the 33rd ASEAN Summit in Singapore, the Economic Ministers of the delegate countries signed the ASEAN Agreement on e-Commerce, which is part of the implementation of the ASEAN Work Programme on Electronic Commerce 2017-2025. The agreement aims to facilitate cross-border e-commerce transactions and promote confidence in the use of e-commerce in the region to drive economic growth and social development. It comprises commitments on the fields of cybersecurity, data localization and data flows, ensuring that companies and consumers can easily access and move data across borders, without the need to “build expensive and unnecessarily redundant data centres in every market”. The agreement also contains provisions on online consumer protection, personal data protection alternative online dispute resolution mechanisms for e-commerce transactions. In parallel, the ASEAN summit also welcomed the endorsement of the ASEAN Digital Integration Framework, which identifies the economic benefits and challenges posed by digital integration for ASEAN and its Member States, with particular attention to MSMEs.

Recently, the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration requested public comments on how to improve consumer privacy, especially in regard to online platforms. The Motion Pictures Association of America’s (MPAA) comments, addressed the burning issue of WHOIS records and protection of privacy in line with the GDPR. The MPAA once again emphasised the concerns of many copyright holders due to hiding WHOIS details. The association stated that such an approach is disabling law enforcement, as well as copyright holders in detecting and preventing various types of crimes online The MPAA also stated that public WHOIS data is important for the very protection of consumers. The organisation believes that this information needs to be public in order to enable consumers to verify website information, so they can see if they can trust websites.

Irish consumer protection commission has published the new guide that should help online business to meet their obligations in this field. The focus of this guide is in interpretation of Consumer Rights Directive and it was created as result of survey conducted over 200 companies. The biggest discrepancies in interpretation were in refund policy, right of consumers to cancellation, return of their purchase, time-frames for exercising rights, etc. All of these concerns and many others are clarified in this guide.

During the press briefing, European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, announced that a preliminary antitrust investigation over Amazon has been opened in order to gather information about ways the company uses data. More specifically, it aims to examine how the company uses data that it gathers through transactions and from sellers on their marketplace, as well as to see if that data potentially gives Amazon a competitive advantage over merchants by having an insight into consumer behaviour. Questionnaires have been sent to merchants in order to ‘get the full picture’, however Vestager underlined: ‘We are at very early days, there are no conclusions yet, and the case has not been formally open yet.’ The media reports that the Amazon refused to comment.

Airbnb has announced that it will work on implementation of improved Terms and Conditions in order to better inform consumer about its prices. This actions followed after presentation of its terms and conditions at meeting of EU consumers protection authorities and  EU Commission, where these bodies requested from Airbnb to give proposal until end of August how will align its terms and conditions with EU consumers protection legislation. Amnog other, these change are related to Airbnb to clearly present prices including all additional fees, making it clear if host is private person on professional, clearly presenting all remedies and legal actions to consumers, etc. These changes need to be implemented by the end of 2018.

FCC Chairman stated that big web companies like Facebook, Google etc need to be more transparent in their work. In his blog he specifically addressed algorithms that these companies are using, the way how they treat personal data of users and how they are affecting online speech. He emphasized the importance of public to know these fact and to be well informed about them, mentioning transparency obligation/legislation as one of the manner to ensure that.

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