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Study shows that the “Internet is unavailable” to visually impaired users

A study published by Deque Systems - a digital accessibility company and conducted by Nucleus Research shows that 70% of Internet websites in certain industries such as e-commerce, e-government, news and information, etc. are unavailable to visually impaired users. According to the report, 7 out of 10 blind persons cannot access e-government services whereas 8 out of 10 users experience difficulty accessing news websites.The research therefore highlights the existing digital divide despite measures taken to make the Internet more accessible to visually-impaired users, and emphasises a missed market opportunity for the concerned websites given that they lose roughly USD 6.9 billion to accessible e-commerce competitors annually. 

The report found that well-known e-commerce actors including Amazon, Target and Best Buy lead the way in addressing accessibility issues in the e-commerce space. 

E-commerce platforms restrained from selling exclusive products 

The Delhi High Court has ruled that e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, Healthkart and Snapdeal are not allowed to advertise, display and offer for sale the products of companies that are direct selling entities without their consent. The lawsuit was filed by Amway, Modicare and Oriflame, direct selling companies of healthcare and beauty products. They claimed that the platforms sell their product at cheaper rates, resulting in financial losses. The e-commerce platforms argued that they were merely intermediaries under Section 79 of the IT Act 2000, therefore, not liable for the products that different sellers offer on their marketplaces. 

Amazon tackles counterfeits but denies liability 

Amazon informed its customers that the Align nutritional supplements sold on its platform by third-party vendors were counterfeits. The company recommended its customers to stop using and disposing of the supplements in the US. Amazon does not know if any of its customers have ingested something dangerous. They received a full refund for having purchased the fake supplements. Amazon has fought against fake products sold by third parties for years. The company alleges to investigate every claim of counterfeit, often with the assistance of brands, and to remove the illegal items for sale, permanently banning bad actors. However, Amazon’s liability for illegal third party products is limited in the US. Courts have ruled that market places such as Amazon and eBay are mere intermediaries between customers and sellers, and, therefore, are immune under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). Amazon is both a retailer and a third-party marketplace. In a recent ruling, a court of appeal has admitted that Amazon’s product listing, featuring its own products but also third-party products, makes it difficult for customers to understand from whom they are purchasing the product.

UNCTAD and the China Silk Road Group to deliver ODR to e-commerce consumers

UNCTAD and the China Silk Road Group signed an agreement to deliver online dispute resolution to consumers in south-east Asia to improve international trade and electronic commerce. Under the agreement, the parties will jointly develop an online dispute resolution platform for cross-border e-commerce. China will share its expertise on blockchain, while UNCTAD will provide experience in consumer protection and technical assistance to developing countries. The aim is to reduce the difficulty of dispute arbitration and increase in  effective protection of consumer rights.

Facebook can be ordered to seek and identify all defamatory comments identical to one found illegal worldwide if originating from the same user

Court of Justice of the EU published an opinion of Advocate General Szpunar, according to which Facebook can be ordered to seek and identify all comments identical to a defamatory comment that has been found to be illegal, and equivalent comments in so far as the latter originate from the same user. Court of Justice here interpreted the Directive on electronic commerce, according to which a host provider (operator of a social network platform) is, in principle, not liable for the information stored on its servers by third parties, if it is not aware of the illegal nature of that information. Once made aware of its illegality, the host provider must delete that information or block access to it. Advocate General Szpunar in stated in the opinion that this regulation does not preclude ordering a social network provider to seek and identify, among all the information disseminated by users of that platform, the information identical to the information that has been characterised as illegal by a court or its equivalent worldwide.

According to the Advocate General, that approach ensures a fair balance between the fundamental rights involved, namely the protection of private life and personality rights, the protection of freedom to conduct a business, and the protection of freedom of expression and information.

UNOSSC launches digital tool to support South-South digital co-operation

Prior to the Second High-level UN Conference on South-South Cooperation 20-22 March 2019, UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) launched ‘South-South Galaxy’ which is a global knowledge sharing and partnership platform that helps developing countries connect, learn, and collaborate with potential partners digitally. The digital tool further aims at bringing together other initiatives and tools developed by UN agencies in one platform for better access and navigation. ‘The Galaxy project will place in a single digital space all the great experiences of South-South cooperation. We are talking about the best cases, the best opportunities to establish contacts and partnerships”, said Special Envoy of the Secretary General, and Director of the UNOSSC Jorge Chediek. Additionally, on the same day, the UNOSSC published the South-South Cooperation an a Digital World – 2018 Annual Report in South-South Cooperation report which tackles digital industries in the Global South through examining prospects that influence them and possible areas of co-operation between Southern countries in this regard. It further explores how digital technologies can support trade and inclusive finances in developing countries.

Africa eCommerce Week: Empowering African Economies in the Digital Era

The Africa eCommerce Week: Empowering African Economies in the Digital Era was organised from 10 - 14 December 2018 in Nairobi, Kenya by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the African Union, and the European Union, and hosted by the Government of Kenya. The outcome of the event is the Nairobi Manifesto on the Digital Economy and Inclusive Development in Africa which pinpoints a number of policy recommendations required for digital economy to bring inclusive and sustainable development to Africa and eschew wider inequalities and divides. The Manifesto further underlines how the engagement of all segments of society is significant for e-commerce to make a real and sustained contribution to development. To this aim, cross-cutting policy actions and new public - private partnerships are necessary alongside quality research and statistics to inform such policy actions.

Biometric recognition technologies are preferred method for online payment authentication at Singles' Day

In the 2018 Singles’ Day sales in China, 60.3% of online customers paid using biometric recognition technology, instead of inputting payment passwords. They did so either by scanning their fingerprint or taking a selfie, according to Alipay. The acceptance of biometric identification is advancing fast: in 2016, around 95 percent of the people surveyed by China’s Payment and Clearing Association said they “knew about” fingerprint recognition. Now Alipay and WeChat Pay are both are racing towards a future of seamless payment.

RCEP negotiations advance, but final agreement is postponed for 2019

Leaders from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) met in Singapore in the margins of the 33rd ASEAN Summit. A joint statement indicated that the RCEP talks “have advanced to the final stage of the negotiations,” but mentioned that the deal will not be completed this year, as initially expected. They welcomed the conclusion of seven chapters out of the overall accord “on economic and technical cooperation, small and medium-sized enterprises, customs procedures and trade facilitation, government procurement, institutional provisions, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and standards, technical regulations, and conformity assessment procedures.” They also referred to the need for dealing with remaining gaps on market access. RCEP would be composed by the 10 countries of ASEAN together with Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea.

ASEAN summit approves e-commerce agreement and advances negotiations on trade in services

The summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) took place in Singapore under the theme “Resilient and Innovative.” The regional bloc comprises 10 Southeast countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The highlights of the meeting were the negotiations on a new ASEAN Trade in Services Agreement (ATISA), designed to help achieving “free flow of trade in services within the region” and the signature of the ASEAN Agreement on e-commerce.  Taken together, the approval of ATISA, the amendment to the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA) and the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA) form a complete trio of modern and comprehensive ASEAN agreements, according to the bloc’s Economic Ministers”.

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