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75 WTO members to start negotiations on a new e-commerce trade deal

25 January 2019

Today 75 countries, the EU and 47 member countries of the WTO, announced their intention to start negotiations for an e-commerce treaty. If successful, this multilateral legal framework could reduce the cross-border challenges associated with e-commerce and make it easier for consumers and businesses to buy and sell online.

Online shopping has become an integral part of everyday life for many people. Yet, despite its mass uptake, trust in some aspects of this part of the digital economy is in short supply – particularly when purchases are made from another country.

As more and more consumers conduct business over the internet it is becoming increasingly important that governments ensure the right protections and foundations are in place so that consumers are better informed and protected when buying goods or services on the internet.

In 2018 Consumers International launched a new proposal for a Consumer Checklist for international e-commerce deals. The checklist consists of key consumer issues trade negotiators should take into consideration during the negotiation process to ensure consumer’s active and continued engagement with e-commerce.

View consumer checklist

Place Consumers at the Heart of the Deal

Below we summarise these crucial points included in our checklist: 

Including a consumer chapter: The deal should include a chapter dedicated to consumers that incorporates internationally agreed principles of consumer protection.

Informed choice: Consumers buying online should have information about products and services presented in a clear, accurate, easily accessible and conspicuous way so that they can make informed choices.

Access and Inclusion: The needs of marginalized or vulnerable consumers and consumers with disabilities should be considered in website design and e-commerce processes such as payments and delivery.

Effective Protection: Consumers should be treated fairly and be afforded effective protection not less than the protection provided in other forms of commerce.

Product Safety: Products that pose a risk to health and safety should not be marketed or sold to consumers, irrespective of whether they are sold in shops or online.

Data Protection: All countries should have in place high standards of data protection and privacy in both substantive and procedural national laws.

International Cooperation: Regulators and enforcement agencies in participating countries should be encouraged to co-operate through structures such as the UN, ICPEN, the OECD and regional bodies, or in a voluntary process set up in parallel to an e-commerce agreement.

Inclusive Transparent Negotiations: Negotiations about e-commerce should be transparent and multi-stakeholder dialogue should be encouraged nationally and internationally.