It is no more news to those that are familiar with the activities of Consumers International that the theme for 2018 World Consumer Rights Day, (WCRD), to will be marked on March 15 will be “Making Digital Marketplaces Fairer”.
The theme, as noted by consumer enthusiasts and advocates, is clearly an indication that the international consumer body is poised to build on the success of the 2017 “Better Digital World” campaign.
The theme for 2018 campaign, which is similar to that of 2017, will aim at promoting digital marketplaces that would be more accessible, safer and fairer for consumers across the globe.
There is no denying the fact that e-commerce, or buying products and services online, has transformed the way consumers purchase products and services from diverse markets.
Consumers with connected devices and payment method can buy anything from music to the booking of transport and accommodation online, or be buying online tickets for admission to events. This new way to trade has opened up a vast array of choice for consumers and enhanced convenience on an unprecedented scale.
However, despite its benefits, e-commerce raises key challenges for consumer movements across the world as they strive in ensuring that consumers have access to fair and secure markets, ensuring that issues concerning online consumers are expediently redressed, particularly when things go wrong, and protecting them from being exposed to scams and fraud. With this threat to the safety of online consumers, the need to work relentlessly in ensuring that digital marketplaces are fairer for everyone has become indispensable and crucial.
With the threat, World Consumer Rights Day, which comes up for celebration in the next 72 hours, precisely on Thursday, March 15, 2018, no doubt, is an auspicious day for consumer protection bodies, such as Consumer Protection Council, (CPC), to brainstorm on how to domesticate the theme, “Making Digital Marketplaces Fairer”, and deliver real impact for online consumers and remind them about the importance of observing and enforcing consumer rights.
But the question now is, how can the digital marketplaces be made more accessible, safer and fairer for consumers in Nigeria?
In the bid to obtain answers to the foregoing question, DAILY INDEPENDENT, sought the views of some personalities that are conversant with the subject matter on how consumer protection agencies work to ensure that the theme of 2018 World Consumer Rights Day, “Making Digital Marketplaces Fairer” becomes a reality in the cyber marketplace.
Mr. Abiye Ebitimi, an IT expert, says: “one of the reasons why many Nigerians refrain from transacting online shopping is unarguably for the fear of compromising the security of their data. They are afraid that when they put their personal and card information into websites, that they are in effect opening themselves up to potential data theft and fraud on their bank accounts by fraudsters or scammers that are won’t access their card details”.
Mrs. Timothy Eguonu, an Education Counsellor, said the first step consumer protection agencies should take is to embark on a consumer education by keeping online consumers abreast on how they can protect themselves from e-commerce fraud.
He advised that consumers that shop online should: “always ensure that the websites they shop from are secured.”
To achieve that, she said: “Online shoppers should ensure that they do research on the website before they place an order.”
She added: “Online consumers should ensure that they read the site’s policies on privacy and security and be mindful of cookies and they should never give out their social security number.”
Mr. Paul Onasanya, a cybercafé operator said, consumer rights movements should ensure that online consumers are consistently guided through consumer education, warning that “The scam making the rounds on the Internet involves fake websites, and that the sites resemble legitimate e-commerce websites, with credible-looking logos, pictures, and payment options.”
He further advised that online consumers should be educated to: “Ensure that the URL code they access is legitimate, and If they see low prices or discounts above 55 percent, it might be too good to be true.”
He further advised that online consumers should be informed to: “review the copyright date and domain creation date and that they-they should not make purchases on newly built websites.”
Mr. Sam Ogah, a consumer enthusiast, said: “There are many scammers on the Internet, but consumers and merchants alike can avoid becoming e-commerce fraud victims if they pay attention and are aware. If you are ever the victim of an online scam, it is important to file a police report immediately.”
Mr. Amos Ubile, who confessed to be an ardent online shopper said: “Cyber marketplace has made it possible for consumers to perform various actions with virtually every gadget that have keypads as they are able to pay bills, make funds transfer, sell products, check the status of their bank accounts, make purchases for goods and so much more from the comfort of their homes.
He explained that anyone: “Who uses online services for effecting transactions long enough, would agree that it is not always that straightforward.”
To this, he called on the Consumer Protection Council, (CPC), to key into the themes of World Consumer Day of 2017 and 2018, particularly as they seek to protect online shoppers, and bring them into domestication in Nigeria.
Stakeholders engaged in media parleys by DAILY INDEPENDENT were unanimous in their views that CPC should strategize in ensuring that online consumers are adequately protected in the digital marketplaces.
The stakeholders argued that consumers are by each passing day purchasing goods and services they need online.
They noted, that the increasing need to visit digital marketplaces by online shoppers is mainly due to the advantages the virtual market offers
For consumers, online shopping is convenient, less time-consuming, cheaper and offers a wide variety of products and services.
Consumers also opt to buy online because it is easier to compare prices and the internet offers easy access to product reviews by other consumers.
However, DAILY INDEPENDENT reports that there is still a number of problems online shoppers face, and which makes the call for CPC to intervene expedient.
There are factors hindering both consumers and traders from fully exploiting the benefits of the digital market.
As consumers wait for the celebration of the world consumer rights day on Thursday, March 15, 2018, the problems they encounter when carrying out online transactions, and ensuring that consumers only have access to safe products are some of the themes that will be discussed at the global event.
Useful tips on how consumers can avoid buying dangerous goods, and what to do if they happen to purchase a dangerous product will also be provided.