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Business Recorder

Published Date: Sep 20, 2017

CCP to protect consumers rights, encourage online trade

The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) would ensure implementation of right policies and regulations to encourage online trade while protecting the rights of the consumers and resolving consumer disputes in the online environment.
It is learnt that the speakers at a seminar held at the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) to discuss consumer protection issues in the fast-growing e-commerce and mobile commerce milieu, stressed the need for putting in place the right policies and regulations that encourage online trade while at the same time protect the rights of the consumers.
The “Multi-Stakeholder Event on Consumer Protection Issues in e-Commerce” was organised by the CCP to support the Ministry of Commerce in the development of Pakistan’s National e-Commerce Policy Framework. The Framework is focusing on expanding the potential of the e-commerce market, identifying financial issues and legal issues related to it, and proposing the necessary amendments to the existing legal frameworks. Working Groups have reviewed the regulatory framework, electronic payment systems, customs duties on imported products, taxation on sales in domestic market, provisions for setting of e-stores, provisions regarding e-supply chains, issues of intellectual property protection, privacy of consumer information and data security regulations.
This event was an opportunity to continue the discussion, this time with a focus on consumer protection issues and to craft the necessary legal and institutional framework that responded effectively to consumer disputes in the online environment. The need to enhance and ensure user confidence in e-Commerce transactions by providing adequate safety to personal and financial details were important areas that were discussed.
The event was addressed by senior officials of the Ministry of Commerce, State Bank of Pakistan, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, and the US Federal Trade Commission currently visiting Pakistan for professional interaction with CCP officials, and representatives of think tanks and business organizations engaged in e-commerce. The participants included senior officials of the Ministry of Information Technology, regulatory bodies, business groups, law firms and experts focusing on consumer issues.
Anjum Assad Amin, Additional Secretary for Trade Diplomacy, Ministry of Commerce, explained the ongoing efforts to promote and streamline e-commerce through appropriate policies developed in collaboration with key institutions. She explained the five working groups engaged on National e-Commerce Policy in areas of logistic, payment infrastructure and taxation, with representatives from the public and private sectors. The CCP is part of two working groups, the Regulatory Framework group and e-Commerce, WTO, and Development group, she said, and praised all stakeholders including the CCP for their contribution to developing the policy framework.
Betsy Broder of the US Federal Trade Commission spoke about the important work of the FTC in ensuring consumer protection, not only in the US, but also in other regions with collaboration of other counterparts.
John Dickerson, Senior Commercial Law Advisor to the US Department of Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Programme, appreciated the steps being taken by the government of Pakistan for consumer protection. He talked about the work of the CLDP in strengthening trade, commerce, and the legal framework for the protection of intellectual property and competition.
The first session was on “e-Commerce, growth, competition, consumer protection, data security: Government perspective.” Ahmed Qadir, Director General Advocacy and International Affairs gave a presentation on ‘the nexus between competition and consumer protection issues in the Pakistan.’ The Competition Act permits the Commission to address issues of deceptive marketing, which becomes important in the online environment, but he highlighted that e-commerce activities could also be affected by competition concerns.
Arif Sargana, Director Economic Affairs, PTA, spoke on the ‘developments in the e-commerce enabling communications infrastructure, and enabling environment for m-commerce – policies for mobile broadband.’ Nasir Ayyaz, Director Legal, Ministry of Information Technology, gave an overview of Pakistan’s forthcoming Data Protection Law; and Sharoon Rasheed, Deputy Director, State Bank of Pakistan, spoke on ‘the role of SBP in strengthening the e-commerce milieu in Pakistan’ including interesting development on PayPak and the National Payment Gateway.
This session discussed the role of regulatory bodies with reference to competition and consumer protection amid a fast growth of e-commerce. The initiatives by the PTA and SBP to facilitate e-commerce and mobile commerce and ensure consumer protection were also discussed in the presentations. With an increasing number of mobile and internet users, many international web-based companies were ready to invest in Pakistan. The PTA said that they had a consumer protection department for analysing consumer’s complaints as well as identifying new areas for regulatory work for larger consumer protection.
The second session was on “Pakistan’s experience in e-commerce, consumer protection, and data security: views from private sector and independent experts.” The speakers in this session were Faisal Ijaz, Unit Head e-commerce MCB Bank, who spoke on ‘the role of a financial sector in strengthening e-commerce;’ Parvez Iftikhar, an information and communication technology (ICT) consultant gave a presentation on ‘Digitilisation and e-Commerce;’ Hammad Haider, a journalist with Business Recorder (research) who discussed the measures necessary for consumer protection;’ and Dr Vaqar Ahmed, the Deputy Executive Director, Sustainable Development Policy Institute, spoke on the ‘e-commerce for inclusive growth and promotion of domestic commerce.’
This session discussed the issues related to e-commerce such as delivery inefficiencies, cash on delivery, lack of trust while making an online transaction, and lack of awareness. Dr Vaqar Ahmed highlighted the issues in e-commerce such as hidden charges, low quality and high prices of products, and poor or non-responsive customer services.
Parvez Iftikhar said that enhancing consumer trust remained a cornerstone for success in a dynamic and complex e-commerce market place. He recommended for better penetration of optic fibre in rural areas and along Indus River’s route and the CPEC corridor.
Hammad Haider mentioned that about 35% of consumers complained that their online purchase issues remaining unresolved for a long time. He suggested the government to develop consumer-friendly regulations and issue code of conduct for businesses.
The third session was on “The experiences of the US Federal Trade Commission in consumer protection in e-commerce, data security issues, and developing partnerships.” Mamie Kresses, Senior Attorney from Bureau of Consumer Protection, FTC, briefed the participants about privacy law, consumer protection law, and health information law implemented in the USA. She said that the FTC dealt with numerous cases pertaining to privacy issues, data protection, unauthorised tracking, and others.
Betsy Broder, counsel for International Consumer Protection, defined the enforcement role of FTC and how important it was to educate business community to refrain it from involving in unconscious infringements of laws.
The last session was on the “legal framework for consumer protection in Pakistan.” Faizur Rehman, Assistant Director CCP’s Office of Fair Trade, gave a presentation on Section 10 of the Competition Act 2010 that deals with consumer protection.
Bulent Sohail, an advocate from International Legal Services gave a presentation about the consumer laws of Islamabad and the four provinces, identifying the current situation affecting consumer protection at the provincial level and the challenges to make it more effective. He said that Section 10 of the Competition Act was the only national law providing some level of effective protection to consumers from deceptive marketing practices.
The final report on the National e-Commerce Policy Framework is expected to be presented to the government before the end of 2017.