Despite, certain parties calling for greater involvement by regulators, the private sector and governments world-wide agree that the digital economy as it is driven by business should be self-regulated. Most governments are unanimously agreed that the private sector should take the lead in this area and should work to regulate itself and protect consumers. Both public and private parties have been fairly cooperative in terms of regulating e-commerce.
In June seven top technology and e-commerce companies in the U.S. including AOL, AT&T, Dell, IBM, Microsoft, Network Solutions and Time Warner jointly proposed guidelines to help protect consumers online. Their efforts are made under the banner of the Electronic Commerce and Consumer Protection Group and their proposal is formerly titled “Guidelines for Merchant-to-consumer Transactions.” Some analysts note that the proposal may have been put forth in response to a FTC recommendation to Congress to establish standard practices regulating the collection of information online in order to improve consumer protection.
Other non-governmental groups which are working towards establishing guidelines include the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and BBBOnLine, Translatlantic Business Dialogue (TABD), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), and the Global Information Infrastructure Commission (GIIC). These organizations play important roles in forming the rules of the game because they provide effective measures to protect consumers. For example, BBBOnline, established a seal program last year which assures users that businesses displaying the seals follow credible and effective online privacy practices.
The excitement over e-commerce has also led to distinct global efforts of private-sector unification including the emergence of two new business groups over the last years including the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) and the Global Business Dialogue on e-commerce (GBDe).
Recognized by many as the leader forging a global consensus on e-commerce, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental forum made of 29 countries including the U.S., formerly adopted guidelines for consumer protection in online commerce in December of last year. The guidelines seek to give online shoppers the same level of protection already afforded to those making purchases offline. The guidelines intend to primarily provide a blueprint for governments worldwide as they look to determine their own consumer protection laws as electronic commerce continues to evolve and contribute to both national and the international economy.
In addition to the OECD there are several international regulatory bodies hurriedly moving to fit rules to guide the new frontier. These include the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), which all have contributed to a worldwide effort to provide rules to this new game without borders.
Moreover, since many of the enactments passed by these bodies are not enforceable unless the national legislative body of each country passes it into law, countries are forming individual country-to-country agreements to put e-commerce guidelines into practice. Thus far, the U.S. has e-commerce trade cooperation agreements with the European Union, Australia, Egypt and Chile.