EU-ABC: Digital Toolkit for Fraud and Consumer Rights

On June 23, the EU-ASEAN Business Council held its Digital Toolkit Series focusing on fraud, consumer rights, and the various mechanisms that the ASEAN sector is currently focusing on.

For Deputy Secretary General Mohamed Zahari of Consumer Empowerment Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs laid the groundwork for the webinar, citing the drastic change the digital age has undergone in the past year. It has indeed opened a lot of opportunities for micro-small-medium enterprises out there and has certainly made the lives of consumers much easier. But with tech innovation comes newfound challenges that both business owners and consumers must deal with mainly, fraud and deception.

"Online fraud and deception require additional protections, how can ASEAN leaders tackle this growing issue?"

The main answer that Department of Trade and Industry Undersecretary Ruth Castelo shared is the memorandum of agreement between DTI and the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines. USEC Castelo said that the efforts of DTI and IPO was to primarily to protect consumer rights by elaborate plans on preventing and penalizing those who are guilty of deceit.

This idea was backed by Lazada Group Senior Vice President for Intellectual Property Protection Andy Chua, saying that Lazada has already signed multiple MOU's in the past year with different agencies in the countries where they operate.

Since MOUs are not legally binding, PSI Regional Director Ramesh reminded everyone that this is just the first step to properly placing the safetynets for consumers. Mr. Chua emphasized on consumer education as they also need to practice responsible online shopping as well as prosecution is not easy as well.

One hardship of penalization and prosecution, according to the Senior Director for Government Affairs of SAP Claudia Chan, is data privacy protection laws and the need for specific clauses to help authorities and agencies to locate those who are guilty of deceit. In addition, USEC Castelo said that over-regulating is something that they would not want to do because the rise of e-commerce platforms is an opportunity for everyone to take. "We need to incentivize good actors," agreed Ms. Chan.

Both USEC Castelo and SecGen Zahari emphasized the importance of the ASEAN Online Business Code of Conduct and that this should be institutionalized through national and local governments. All panelists agreed that its high-time ASEAN countries collaborate and work together to make the ecommerce platform safer.

The ASEAN Online Business Code of Conduct is available here.