For safety of consumers on e-Commerce platforms

In today’s digital world, consumers are more often transacting various businesses online, including personal financial activities. Shopping, banking and gambling are done online, notwithstanding the hiccups occasioned mainly by poor network.

Despite the growing traffic of online transactions in Nigeria, there is no strong legislation to protect the consumers, who are active online. To a good number of consumer protection enthusiasts, it will be nice if federal lawmakers or regulatory bodies design policies to ensure the safety of consumers online. Without legal protection, consumers would be subject to fraud and other  activities that put their personal finances and privacy at risk.

In fact, with more Nigerians engaging in online transactions, there is need for consumers on online platforms to be protected. They need tips to navigate the reptile-infested waters of e-Commerce safely.


NITDA’s efforts to shield consumers

Not a few Nigerians applauded the recent move by the National Information Technology Development Agency, which is working with other stakeholders to formulate the National Policy on e-Commerce to regulate and protect online businesses.

During a recent consumer protection forum themed ‘Enabling the e-Commerce Services-driven Economy: Opportunities for Consumers, Challenges and Way Forward in Nigeria,’ NITDA Director, Standards, Guidelines and Framework, Mr Oladejo Olawunmi, expressehttp://ecommerced the agency’s resolve to push for regulation to protect all players in the industry from being short-changed.

Olawunmi said, “If there is no regulation in the industry, there would be chaos, and that is what NITDA is trying to avoid.

“Over the past months, NITDA, in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, has been trying to put together the National Policy on e-Commerce. We have had several engagements with other stakeholders, and this is one of them. We want to have your opinions on what exactly you want from this, so we can incorporate them to have a comprehensive and robust policy.”

According to him, the Coronavirus Disease outbreak pulled more people towards e-Commerce, which has not gained the expected traction.

“You can agree with me that the e-Commerce sector boomed in 2020. Since then, globally, we have realised the potential and everybody is striving to have a feel of the action,” he said.


E-Commerce in Nigeria

While disclosing the current market value of e-Commerce in Nigeria, which he said stands at $13b, Olawunmi said, “By 2025 the market value is expected to be around $75b, with over three million jobs created.”

He urged Nigerians to embrace e-Commerce, as the government is doing all it can to develop all the enablers of the sector.

“Within the past two or three years, we have seen startups develop and blossom through e-Commerce. Without e-Commerce, they might not have been able to do what they have done. Some of them were bought over by foreign companies. E-commerce provides a way of limiting barriers presented by geographical limitations. So, you can be here and doing business anywhere in the world,” he added.

Giving overview of e-Commerce, one of the resource persons, Mr Kenny Omodara, noted that formulating a policy for e-Commerce “is crucial to the development of the industry” because it would boost confidence and encourage online transactions.

Most of the enablers for a thriving e-Commerce industry, he added, have been taken care of by the government and should be embraced by Nigerians. “Nigeria is the leading African market in e-Commerce because of its population, broadband penetration and the number of Internet users.”


Stakeholders react

Another facilitator, Desmond Odaiche of Yorkshel Business Consult, applauded the government for some of the regulations it emplaced to help the industry thrive. He underscored the importance of logistics, payment platform and commerce (goods) as critical components of e-Commerce.

Odaiche said some of the issues that could limit the success of e-Commerce include poor labelling, failure to pay Customs duty and taxes, unavailability of electronic payment and non-disclosure or improper disclosure of goods.

A participant at the session, Ernest Paul of the National Salary, Income and Wages Commission, advocated punitive measures to regulate e-Commerce transactions. “There must be an anti-trust policy for e-Commerce, if we want to encourage it. A penalty should await whoever breaches the agreement,” he said.

The participants harped on the security of online transactions and called on NITDA to form synergy with other agencies of government to harmonise different policies that could guarantee effective e-Commerce policy for the country.

On the progressive development in the e-Commerce sector, Kevin Iwuchukwu said, “Online confidentiality is a crucial issue, but it seems no one is being thoughtful over it yet.

His words, “In fact, it is already affecting us because, right now, I get lots of unwanted emails and I wonder how the people got my email address. This is aside uncountable spam emails I receive daily.”

A computer scientist, Kennedy Okwueku, said, “Prior to NITDA’s move, there were concerns among online shoppers about lack of enabling laws for the protection of personal information provided for online businesses. They say there is cause for concern, as there is no legislation for the protection of millions of personal information provided for online businesses daily, even as they fear that without such legislation, it is not certain that online businesses will use the information for the sole purpose of business transactions and without interfering with their privacy.”

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