Making the case for consumer confidence in e-commerce at UNCTAD E-commerce week

19 April 2018

Consumers International had a busy few days in Geneva at UNCTAD’s annual e-commerce week representing consumers on panels as diverse as business engagement, cross-border e-commerce and meeting the sustainable development goals.

Here are some of the highlights:

The week kicked off with us co-hosting a panel with UNCTAD on the Role of Business in Protecting Online Consumers.

The panel brought together speakers from Vodafone, Nigerian Consumer Protection Agency, Wolfson College, Oxford University, Alibaba and the World Economic Forum alongside Consumers International Director General, Amanda Long. By highlighting best practices and identifying areas of improvement in cooperation between stakeholders the panel discussed how we can build a digital world consumers can trust.  We were able to showcase the work of our members last month in our successful World Consumer Rights Day.


On day two, Amanda Long took part in a Ministerial Roundtable: Digital Impacts on Sustainable Development chaired by UNCTAD Secretary General Mukhisa Kituyi. The panel also included of Ministers of commerce and trade from Liberia, Cambodia and Uganda alongside representatives from IndiaMART and the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development

to explore how efforts at the country level as well as globally, can ensure that the evolving digital economy brings about the inclusive future we want.

Consumers International acknowledged the potential for digitalisation and e-commerce to boost growth and connect more people than ever to services and products. However, to truly benefit everyone, we need to see e-commerce and digitalisation not simply as transactions but as entire systems, that effect multiple players in different ways.  


“the drive to increase access and participation must be matched by a concerted drive to increase trust. A confident and trusting demand side is central to the success of not just e-commerce but actually the whole digital economy.”

Consumers International

Consumers International ran our own lunchtime session called Going Global - Consumer Trust in Cross Border E-commerce with the China Consumers Association, the International Trade Centre, Ecommerce Foundation, Alibaba, and BEUC.  The diverse range of speakers discussed the steps needed to increase consumer trust in cross-border e-commerce.

Amanda Long was also invited to contribute to a High Level Dialogue on the Development Dimensions of Digital Platforms where we called on Ministers to pay attention not just to the infrastructure and investment or skilling up required to increase participation in the digital economy and society, but also to the social, economic, cultural and personal impacts that technological development has on people - otherwise we risk further entrenching and exacerbating existing inequalities. 

“Identifying which part of the e-commerce chain is responsible – is it the platform, the retailer, the payment provider, the fulfilment service? – is really hard, let alone trying to work out which jurisdiction it sits in if it’s a cross-border transaction”, Amanda Long


Teresa Moreira, who leads UNCTAD’s work on consumer protection, said: “In the digital economy setting, regulation and law enforcement, although vital, are not enough to protect consumers. Trust also hinges on establishing good online business practices.”

Annual Global Survey on Internet Security and Trust

E-commerce week also saw the launch of the latest Annual Global Survey on Internet Security and Trust by CIGI/Ipsos, UNCTAD and the Internet Society. The survey sheds much needed light upon public attitudes toward taxation of technology companies, use of e-commerce platforms and the power of social media, search engines, online applications and online advertisements. Key headlines this year:

  • Six in ten (60%) global residents are likely to use mobile payment systems on their smartphone in the next year
  • Consumers in emerging economies lead the way on using online payment systems on mobile phones.
  • Among those who never shop online, the key reason they do not is a lack of trust