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  December 15th, 2016 | Written by

Building Trust in Online Markets

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  • Ecommerce offers new opportunities for developing countries to grow.
  • Protecting consumer rights and preventing cybercrime would encourage trust in online markets.
  • Coordinated international protection is required for consumers to feel safe buying online.

The internet—and ecommerce in particular—offers new opportunities for developing countries to grow, but maximizing the potential of this opportunity requires more trust in these markets.

Protecting consumer rights and preventing cybercrime are among the issues that must be dealt with, according to a senior UNCTAD official.

E-markets which are growing rapidly—from $16 trillion in 2013 to $22 trillion in 2015—holds opportunities to generate jobs and incomes in developing countries, connecting both individuals and markets, even in remote locations. Analysts say ecommerce also offers a more stable market than, say, commodities, and a better source of growth than manufacturing given that trade growth for physical goods is sluggish at best.

But concerns have been raised about the numbers of people who still do not access this opportunity. More than half of the world’s population still has no access to internet, and in Africa that share is about 75 percent.

“We are concerned about the four-billion people in the developing world who are still not connecting to this enormous and growing global market,” said Joakim Reiter, the UNCTAD deputy secretary general. “Clearly the lack of infrastructure and access will need to be corrected. Looking to the future, however, consumers will need coordinated international protection from both cybercrime and market power so that they feel safe to buy online.”

In July, UNCTAD—the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development—launched the e-Trade for All initiative in Nairobi, bringing together 15 international organizations and 22 private sector actors, easing developing country access to cutting edge technical assistance and giving donors more options for funding.

In October, delegates from the consumer protection agencies of more than 70 countries welcomed the first ever meeting of UNCTAD’s Intergovernmental Group of Experts (IGE) on Consumer Protection Law and Policy. The meeting looked at the ways in which countries can coordinate to protect the rights of consumers in a digital era and launched the revised UN Guidelines on Consumer Protection.