The director general of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Mr. Osita Aboloma has stressed the need for stakeholders in the e-commerce space to adhere strictly to standards in order to provide solutions that would ensure safe and secure transactions, assurance of quality, consumer protection and boost the sector.
Speaking at a stakeholders’ forum in Lagos tagged ‘The role of standards and quality regulation in electronic commerce’, Aboloma who was represented at the even by SON’s director of corporate affairs, Dr. Paul Angya, said imbibing standards in e-commerce would go a long way to facilitate trade, promote global competitiveness, economic growth and development.
He therefore advocated for need to promote awareness on standards and quality regulations in the e-commerce sector maintaining that ensuring safe and secure online platforms for sale of goods and services to enhance trade within Nigeria and across borders would ultimately increase the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
He explained that e-commerce as the name implies is a business that is on the rise hence the need for the standardisation and regulation of the quality of products and services traded through the cyberspace.
“The promotion of awareness on standards and quality regulation in the e-commerce sector has become necessary as the drive for digitalised market places increased and the pressure on the standards community mounts.
“This requires that all stakeholders reckon fully with the realities of the competitive and fast-paced global economy. Having identified that the roles played by stakeholders in this sector is key to the growth and development of the nation, the participants and this forum have been carefully selected. From consumers to consumer groups, telecommunication companies, banks, airlines, regulatory bodies, advertising practitioners, embassies and trade charters as well as online marketers and dealers, your interactions are expected to channel a way forward for E-Commerce in Nigeria,” said the director general.
He pointed out that with the increasing volumes of consumer complaints received on the quality of products and services sold online “it has become necessary to have a robust regulatory framework in place to drive the e-commerce sector.”
“Products like mobile phones, electrical and electronic devices cannot be physically viewed and tested before purchase online while the claims on what they can do have been found in many cases to be inaccurate or sometimes outright false.
“It is expected that decisions reached in at this forum will foster positive change that will ensure improved customer satisfaction and consumer protection and ultimately guarantee the safety and security of online sales and marketing as well as ensure that only quality goods and services are provided for the consumers,” he said.
He urged participants to take optimum advantage of the forum to discuss pertinent issues with online marketers and the regulatory bodies in order to attract more investors into the e-commerce sector.
In his speech, the director general of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Mr. Babatunde Irukera, said e-commerce is the way of the future pointing out that technology is disrupting the traditional ways of commerce and trade.
He noted that as consumers are becoming more sophisticated, so also is the role of consumer protecting authorities all over the world to ensure that they are as dynamic as the sophistication of consumers.
“What we believe at CPC is that any e-commerce platform must capture the responsibilities of availing consumers good quality for money spent.
“This is why the question of returns, refunds and warranties are very important to us. We are in the process of writing new regulations with respect to returns, refunds and warranties while paying rapt attention to e-commerce with respect to that.
“We must find a way to promote e-commerce while at the same time, promote the interest and safety of the consumer,” he said.
He said the challenge facing the e-commerce space is that it is borderless, stressing that there are jurisdictional issues on whether some of the online marketers are people who are providing services and the goods are within the jurisdictional authority of CPC.
“We are working towards this both at international and local levels to ensure that the regulatory framework adequately address these issues. Stakeholders in the e-commerce industry must recognise the importance of consumers.
“Any business that is offering goods and services will only survive as long as it continues to prioritize consumer protection and when they prioritize that knowing that technology is just a tool to ensuring that people are satisfied, then that way you can be sure that the business would perpetuate. Stakeholders must ensure that consumers’ interest must continue to be prioritized,” he added.
For his part, SON’s director of product certification directorate, SON, Tersoo Orngudwen, said standards are global.
He stressed that Nigeria must embrace standards as it is done everywhere in the world.
In her remarks, the president, Consumer Advocacy Foundation of Nigeria, Shola Ajulo, said Nigeria had caught up with e-commerce businesses and also possesses the skills required to ensure protection not just for physical markets, but also for the online markets.
“I hope today, the consumers, regulators and service providers come up with agreements that will go a long way to protect the consumers and the online markets. We want to address things like warranties, refunds, returns, misleading adverts, because on-line marketers are taken undue advantage of so many consumers are being taken advantage of. I am hoping that we would be able to have some checks and balances to make sure that the online market is safe,” she said.