Shore up apparatus to protect consumers online

Rogue e-commerce traders facilitating unauthorised "blank cheque" transfers are no different from the rogue retailers in shopping centres ("Do more to regulate online businesses" by Mr Wong Boon Hong; Forum Online, Aug 19).

The question remains as to whether these acts fall under the ambit of the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act, and what measures, if any, can be taken to enact appropriate punishment.

It is a matter of principle that society should eradicate business malpractices that involve misinformation and entrapment.

It is also the moral obligation of legitimate businesses to uphold a code of conduct for fair business practices.

Therefore, fresh legislation should be introduced to enforce compliance and serve as a strong deterrent. It should also serve to correct the power imbalance that firms may hold over consumers.

One way to do so would be to reinforce the existing "Lemon Law" to include specific provisions against rogue e-commerce traders.

These could include increased scrutiny on credit card payments, limiting the terms and conditions that can be appended to online transactions, as well as making the issuance of detailed invoices mandatory.

The state should also invest more resources in the apparatus necessary to investigate claims of e-commerce malpractice, thereby allowing for more expedient prosecution and case settlement.

As part of a multilateral approach, firms could also do their part by ensuring compliance with industry standard guidelines on fair business practices.

Given the prevalence of predatory business strategies in recent years, it is imperative that the Lemon Law be revamped to maximise the protection of consumers in all aspects.

We need to cultivate a true consumer protection culture.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi