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Over 80 countries have agreed to include consumer protection principles in trade rules for online shopping

30 September 2021

Over 80 countries at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) have reached an agreement on a consumer protection article in e-commerce. The article will be used as part of the ongoing negotiations for a future e-commerce trade deal.

The decision came after several months of negotiations, led by the New Zealand mission to the WTO, has resulted in more than 80 WTmembers coming to a consensus on thprincipleof consumer rights that should be included in the deal. The online consumer protection article requires members to adopt or maintain measures that proscribe misleading, fraudulent and deceptive commercial activities that cause harm, or potential harm, to consumers engaged in electronic commerce.

Helena Leurent, Director-General at Consumers International, praised the agreement reached and commented:

‘As the voice of consumer groups in over 100 countries around the world, Consumers International is delighted that more than 80 countries are taking leadership on the importance of consumer rights within digital transactions.' 

Consumers International members including CHOICE, FOMCAWhich?, VZBV, and BEUC were active in advocating for the negotiators to establish principles that can enhance consumer trust in online transactions. During the 2017 WTO Ministerial in Buenos Aires, Consumers International highlighted the need to have an e-commerce framework within WTO.  

As a result, Consumers International developed a checklist which highlights consumer rights and needs that the WTO agreement should contain. In October 2018, this was presented during working session hosted by Consumers International at WTO headquarters in Geneva. 

VIEW CONSUMER CHECKLIST

We are delighted to see elements of this checklist included within the approved article, and we look forward to our ongoing conversations with the WTO lead negotiators in Australia, Japan, and Singapore. 

George Mina, Ambassador, Australian Permanent Mission to the WTO commented: 

“Achieving convergence on the online consumer protection text is a significant milestone for this initiative. It’s a foundational provision – one that will make an important contribution to consumer confidence in the online environment globally. 

Moving forward, Consumers International would like to see WTO members come together in a similar way to address data protection and privacy issues. Data protection and privacy have an impact on consumer trust and welfare, and we are confident that negotiators can reach an agreement that considers the importance of Consumer Rights.