Chapter 15: Consumer protection issues in cross-border ecommerce
AbstractConsumer protection largely remains the province of domestic regulators acting within the confines of their jurisdiction, but globalized trade, and electronic commerce in particular, challenges such a model. Nevertheless, very little has been done to bridge the gap between domestic regulation and remedies on the one hand, and a globalized production chain that is directly accessible to consumers via ecommerce on the other. From early calls for international harmonization to current treaty negotiations, the debate is now in the public eye, but little consensus has emerged on the most effective way to protect consumers in cross-border ecommerce transactions. The eclectic nature of consumer protection issues that arise in relation to cross-border ecommerce, combined with the lack of a single forum or framework to parse out these issues, raises considerable challenges on a global scale. Although most consumer protection advocates do not typically think of trade regimes as the appropriate forum for consumer protection, the fact remains that trade law has both positive and negative impacts on consumer protection, many of which remain unaddressed and under-researched. That is not to say that trade agreements are the appropriate or the best forum for protecting consumer interests, but it highlights the need to consider how trade disciplines affect consumer protection and how the trade regime relates to other regulatory authorities in this space. This chapter outlines consumer interests and domestic regulatory responses. It then examines how consumer interests in ecommerce are treated in trade law, including at the World Trade Organization and in other trade agreements. The chapter then surveys initiatives outside of trade law to protect consumers in the digital economy, including international cooperation outside the context of trade law.
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