My consumer advocacy group Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI) and myself continue to fight for consumer welfare and protection.
Thus, I felt it very important to share with my readers that a joint endeavor of the ASEAN Committee on Consumer Protection (ACCP) and the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on E-Commerce (ACCEC) produced the ASEAN Online Business Code of Conduct. Moving forward, this can be a very useful and informative guide, not only for myself and my consumer group, but also for the government and private sector in the Philippines.
It is a straightforward statement of 15 commitments towards consumers that can be easily applied and adapted in different country or company contexts. As such, it is particularly directed at smaller and emerging online businesses in the ASEAN region.
It must be noted that this Code of Conduct is in line with ASEAN’s High-Level Principles on Consumer Protection. It is not intended as a stand-alone tool, but can be complemented by more comprehensive training and information materials. Where possible, links to specific legal provisions in the ASEAN Member States, either referring to the general consumer protection or specific sectoral laws, could be added. It’s application is entirely voluntary .
The 15 Commitments of the Business Online Code of Conduct are as follows:
- We treat consumers fairly: We do not engage in illegal, fraudulent, unethical or unfair business practices that can harm consumers.
- We uphold our responsibilities: We value consumer rights to the same extent as traditional bricks-and-mortar businesses.
- We comply with laws and regulations: We respect the policies, laws and regulations in the countries where our goods and services are marketed.
- We conform to local standards: We apply the necessary standards and provide accurate information in the local language of the countries where our goods and services are marketed.
- We ensure quality and safety: We make no compromises about product and food safety, and do not offer products which have been recalled, banned or prohibited. Similarly, we make sure our services are of high quality. This is considered a shared responsibility along our entire supply chain.
- We communicate honestly and truthfully: We provide easily accessible, complete and correct information about our goods and services, and adhere to fair advertising and marketing practices.
- We are transparent about our costs: We are open about the prices we charge and do not hide any additional costs (such as customs duties, currency conversion, shipping or delivery).
- We keep proper records of purchases: We provide complete records of the goods purchased, and have them delivered in the promised time and described condition.
- We offer options for cancellation: We allow consumers to review their transaction before making the final purchase, and to withdraw from a confirmed transaction in appropriate circumstances.
- We take consumer complaints seriously: We have a fair and transparent system to address complaints, and provide appropriate compensation, such as refund, repair, replacement, as described in the warranty.
- We keep private information private: We actively protect the privacy of consumers, and ask for permission if we collect, use or share personal data.
- We make sure online payments are safe: We safeguard sensitive data by choosing the appropriate secure technology and protocols, such as encryption or SSL, and display trust certificates to prove it.
- We avoid online spamming: We allow consumers to choose whether they wish to receive or opt out from commercial messages by e-mail or other electronic means.
- We do not produce fake online reviews: We do not restrict the ability of consumers to make critical or negative reviews of our goods or services, or spread wrong information about our competitors.
- We educate consumers about (online) risks: We help consumers in understanding the risks of online transactions, and provide competent guidance if needed.
It is our hope at Laban Konsyumer Inc. that both the government and the private sector can ensure that all these 15 commitments are followed strictly so that the welfare of the consumers is protected, especially during these challenging times of pandemic and strict quarantine measures, where keeping a job and sustaining livelihoods are still difficult tasks.Finally, this column is for you readers, so that you can better appreciate your rights as consumers in the digital economy .
Acknowledgement is given to the Community Relations Division of the ASEAN Secretariat , Jakarta , Indonesia .
Atty. Vic Dimagiba, AB, LLB, LLM
President of Laban Konsyumer Inc., a full term member of Consumers International