Select Committee on European Union Written Evidence


Annex A

Self-Regulatory Initiatives in Electronic Commerce

A BRIEF FROM CONSUMERS IN EUROPE GROUP ON CODES OF CONDUCT, PRACTICE AND TRUST MARKS, HALLMARKS, KITEMARKS, COMPLIANCE SYMBOLS AND LOGOS IN E-COMMERCE

This is not an exhaustive list of schemes. It gives examples of some of the many different schemes and some of the online compliance symbols currently in operation worldwide.

1.  BROADBASED CODES

  Broadbased schemes cover all aspects of electronic trading—pricing, payment details, security, privacy, advertising, guarantees, refunds, complaints handling, and so on.

1.1  TrustUK

  In 1998 the Consumer Affairs Directorate of the Department of Trade and Industry asked the Alliance for Electronic Business (the Alliance)[29] and Consumers' Association (CA) to consider establishing a separate body to accredit Codes of Practice and consumer safeguards relating to the Internet and e-commerce. At the end of 1998 the DTI announced in its Competitiveness White Paper that it wished to introduce a "digital hallmark" with the aim of increasing consumer confidence in Internet shopping by allowing websites which comply with a Code of Best Practice to display an online hallmark.

  In consultation with the DTI the Alliance organised meetings with a number of bodies involved ine-commerce issues, including Consumers' Association (CA), the National Consumer Council (NCC), the National Federation of Consumer Groups (NFCG), the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), AOL and Microsoft.

  TrustUK was formally launched in February 2000 as a joint non-profit making venture between the Alliance and CA. It is an accreditation body for online codes of practice and digital hallmarks and lays down a number of minimum core principles which must be included in the code of practice of the applicant association/organisation. TrustUK is a stand-alone self-regulatory scheme which is not supported by a legal framework. (www.trustuk.org.uk)

1.2  Which? Web Trader

  Independently of TrustUK, Consumers' Association set up their own online system in July 1999 to raise consumer confidence in companies trading on the web. A UK trader displaying the Which? Web Trader logo on their website agrees to follow the Which? Code of Practice to encourage the highest possible standards and make sure that consumers are treated fairly. Consumers' Association gives the following guarantee to consumers: "We believe that giving your credit card details to one of our traders over the Internet is completely safe. But if you do lose out because someone misuses your card, we will reimburse the first £50 of your loss. Legally, the credit card issuer must repay the rest."

  A trader displaying the logo on their website agrees to follow a number of guidelines including pricing, payment methods, delivery times, security, advertising, address and telephone numbers, contracts, refunds, guarantees, complaints handling and dispute resolution, and data protection and privacy. Which? carries out checks to ensure that companies applying to display the logo are genuine and then carries out spot checks to ensure that they are adhering to the code. Displaying the logo does not mean that Which? is recommending the goods or services sold by the trader. Traders do not pay to join the scheme.

  Consumers' Association sees its Web Trader scheme as a developing code. A number of affiliated webtrader schemes are being developed in other EU Member States and these will be hyperlinked to the CA Web Trader website, although each of the schemes is to address domestic concerns and not cross-border disputes. At present the Dutch consumers' organisation Consumentenbond has set up a similar scheme and it is hoped that affiliated members will work together to exert pressure on suppliers to resolve consumer complaints in other Member States. (www.which.net/webtrader) (www.consumentenbond.nl)

1.3  Clicksure

  Clicksure provides accredited third party certification of e-commerce operations which meet a quality overseen by an independent Advisory Council. The clicksure quality standard covers the whole spectrum of criteria that "a quality e-commerce operation should be thinking about to achieve a best practice e-commerce solution". The Clicksure program complies with ISO Guide 62—the International Organisation for Standardisation guide for voluntary certification bodies. It has applied for accreditation to EN45012 by the Dutch National Competent Authority (RvA). EN45012 is the European standard for certification bodies providing quality assurance verification.

  Clicksure-certified operations are entitled to display the Clicksure Quality seal on their websites. Clicksure expects to have over 400 participating e-commerce operations by the end of 1999. (www.clicksure.com)

1.4  The Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG)

  The IMRG hallmark is exclusive to IMRG members (electronic retailers) who formally confirm that they will comply with the IMRG Code of Practice for Electronic Commerce and who successfully complete the IMRG Hallmark Accreditation Process. It is an evolving code focusing on business-to-consumer transactions and is designed to provide a benchmark for consumer services against which merchants can check their services and against which consumers can comment. It does not provide an online complaints form or a help desk or for any independent third party redress mechanism.

  IMRG also operates a Shops Director and a "Mystery Shopper" guide which rates websites according to shopping experiences. (www.imrg.org)

1.5  International Chambers of Commerce (ICC)

  ICC operates a number of self-regulatory schemes, most of which cover business-to-business electronic trading. There are ICC Internet advertising guidelines which have formed the basis for many self-regulatory e-advertising schemes. The 1998 ICC Rules of Arbitration offer dispute resolution through arbitration for electronic commerce, which although mostly designed for business to business does not exclude consumer-to-business disputes. (www.iccwbo.org)

1.6  The BBBOnLine Reliability Programme

  To use the use the BBBOnLine Reliability seal of reliability traders must be members of their local Better Business Bureau (BBB), have been in operation for at least a year, have agreed to BBB advertising standards, agree to respond promptly to all consumer complaints and commit to an independent third party dispute resolution process if needed. Consumers can "click" the BBBOnLine seal displayed on a website to check its authenticity. More than 2,700 retailers in the US and Canada have so far qualified to display the seal.

  In addition, the BBB has an online complaint form which allows consumers to access the BBB's central complaints site, from where the complaint is automatically forwarded to the appropriate local BBB based on the postal code of the company concerned. (www.bbbonline.org)

1.7  CPA WebTrust

  The WebTrust seal verifies that a company has passed an audit of its Internet commerce business systems by an independent certified public accountant (CPA) and that the company is a legitimate business, transactions are safe and secure and the privacy of the consumer is protected. The authenticity of the CPA WebTrust seal is provided by VeriSign. WebTrust is expanding its operation outside of North America and making its seal available in Europe and Asia through licensing arrangements with international accounting firms. WebTrust states that its scheme is scalable upwards to meet more rigorous laws or regulations in certain countries, although no exclusions or exceptions are ever made to the fundamental principles of the scheme. (www.aicpa.org)

1.8  Public Eye certified safe shopping site

  The Public Eye online seal of approval is a rating service that asks customers to complete satisfaction surveys after they have made purchases from a site. Public Eye has signed up about 7,500 mostly small and medium-sized merchants who can display its logo on their site. The consumer can click onto the logo to read a report that gives "thumbs-up" ratings on nine criteria, including speed of deliveries, ease of returns or refunds. The service is free to retailers because Public Eye makes its money selling market research reports based on survey data. (www.thepubliceye.com)

1.9  Bizrate.com

  Bizrate.com operates a similar ratings service (using stars rather than thumbs!) but on a smaller scale. (www.bizrate.com)

1.10  Internet Industry Guidelines

  Internet industry associations in a number of countries including Australia, the Netherlands and Japan are drawing up codes of industry self-regulation. (www.iia.net.au) (www.ecp.nl) (www.ecom.or.jp)

2.  NARROWBASED AND SECTORAL CODES

  Privacy

2.1  Online Privacy Alliance

The Online Privacy Alliance is a cross-industry coalition of more than 60 global corporations and associations which encourages companies to adopt and post a privacy policy and become a supporter of the Alliance. The Alliance supports independent third party seal programs, like BBBOnLine and TRUSTe that award an identifiable symbol to signify to consumers that the owner of the website has a privacy policy that conforms to certain criteria specified by the Online Privacy Alliance. (www.privacyalliance.org)

2.2  TRUSTe

  TRUSTe is a non-profit-making, self-regulatory organisation focused exclusively on individual privacy rights online (www.truste.org)

2.3  The BBBOnLine Privacy Seal

  This BBBOnLine seal focuses solely on privacy. (www.bbbonline.org)

Security and Authenticity

2.4  Verisign

Verisign is the major providers of Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and digital certificate solutions used to conduct secure communications and transactions over the Internet. Whilst Verisign does not operate a Code of Conduct, consumers accessing a site displaying the Verisign logo can ensure that the site they are visiting is authentic and that any information given is secure. (www.verisign.com)

Advertising

2.5  ASA Codes

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) that establishes the British Code of Advertising and Sales Promotion (BSCAP) administered by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), has put forward proposals for the establishment of an e Advertising trustmark scheme for UK Internet advertising. Those joining the scheme agree to comply with the British Codes of Advertising and Sales Promotion and the rulings of the Advertising Standards Authority. The ASA is one of 22 countries in the European Advertising Standards Alliance which is developing a cross-border complaints systems based on the country of origin principle as prescribed by the EU Television Without Frontiers Directive (97/36/EC). (www.asa.org.uk) (www.easa-alliance.org)

Content

2.6  ICRA

The International Content Rating Association (ICRA) has developed a global voluntary self-rating system which provides Internet users worldwide with the choice to limit access to content they consider harmful. (www.icra.org)


29   The Alliance for Electronic Business (Alliance) was formed in February 1998 by the following organisations: the Direct Marketing Association (UK) Ltd (DMA), the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Computer Services and Software Association (CSSA), the Federation of Electrical Industries (FEI), e-centre UK. Back


 
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