Saturday, November 23, 2019

Consumers’ rights to be protected under new MoU

Sep 23. 2019
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By THE NATION

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The Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA) last week signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with major consumer organizations and private companies on a consumer protection initiative covering products and services sold online.

Consumer organizations - the Independent Committee for Consumer Protection (ICCP), the Association of Confederation of Consumer Organization, Thailand (ACCOT) and the Foundation for Consumers joined private companies Central JD Commerce Co Ltd, LNW Co Ltd, and Beautynista Co Ltd in inking the agreement at a ceremony chaired by Tewan Liptapallop, Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Tewan said that the concerned organizations at both the private and public level recognized the importance of consumer protection and were determined to raise confidence among consumers buying products online.

“We have noted problems cropping again again and again when purchases are made online. The main cause is the unreliability of both sellers and online service providers. Consumers have no way of inspecting the authenticity of the system and are unable to access adequate information when a buying product. Often they do not know even the true identity of the seller or service provider with whom they are effectively entering into a contract. Nor do they have sufficient information about the product or service they are buying. This leads to many problems including deception in selling products, receiving a product that has little to do with what was advertised, a product being damaged during delivery, or problems with protection of personal information and consumer privacy. This cooperation will help create a framework for consumer protection and will raise the safety and credibility of online trading.

Surangkana Wayuparb, CEO of ETDA, said that Thailand, like other societies, has seen many changes over the last decade including a major increase in the country’s GDP, which has risen from Bt9.1 trillion to some Bt16.3 trillion anticipated this year. The number of internet users in Thailand also jumped significantly from 16.1 million about 10 years ago to 45.2 million today, which is high compared to the country’s total population of 66 million. These factors have contributed to the continuous growth of the e-commerce market in Thailand.

Surangkana added that ETDA’s survey reveals that the country’s e-commerce market increased significantly from Bt2.7 trillion in 2017 to about Bt3.2 trillion today. Thailand has the highest trading value for B2C e-commerce in Asean, with an increase of more than Bt160 billion in between 2016 and 2017. The high increase is in line with the ever-growing confidence of Thai consumers in technology and a convenient e-payment system, as well as fast home delivery.

“But as online transactions have grown, we have seen continuous problems being raised such as cheating and deception in online trading. According to our 1212 Online Complaint Center, there were about 9,987 complaints about online trading in 2017, and nearly double that number in 2018 when complaints rose to 17,558 or about 1,463 complaints per month. Major complaints are about buying but not receiving the products, products not meeting specifications as well as illegal and substandard products. 

“This MoU signing will be a significant variable in our movement to resolve these online shopping problems in the future,” she said.

Saree Ongsomwang, secretary-general of the Foundation for Consumers, said that the cooperation under the MoU will cover many elements, including the inspection and data display of online retailers; the setting up of a system to provide essential information to consumers about legal online retailers and a channel for complaints against online retailers; the introduction of a financial security system with an intermediary holding payment to a seller until the shopper confirms safe, correct and complete delivery; a privacy policy to protect consumer rights; a complaint and tracking system; and a satisfaction policy for online shoppers.

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