Amazon, Lazada, Qoo10 do well in e-commerce ratings to fight scams

Amazon, Lazada and Qoo10 have been given the highest anti-scam safety ratings, but Facebook Marketplace has been rated the lowest, in a new rating system that was launched yesterday.

The e-commerce marketplace Transaction Safety Ratings (TSR), launched by the Inter-Ministry Committee on Scams, rates the platforms' anti-scam measures.

The committee was formed in April 2020 to combat scams, and brings together government agencies such as the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Ministry of Communications and Information, Monetary Authority of Singapore, and the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Amazon, Lazada and Qoo10 were each given the maximum rating of four ticks, while Shopee and Carousell received three and two ticks respectively.

Facebook Marketplace received the minimum of one tick.

The six platforms are the first to be involved in the ratings, which will be released annually in April.

The committee also launched the revised Technical Reference 76 (TR 76) on Guidelines for Electronic Commerce Transactions, which provides guidelines to better secure e-commerce transactions.

Minister of State for Home Affairs and Sustainability and the Environment Desmond Tan, who is chairman of the committee, said the new rating system would make the e-commerce environment safer and reduce scams.

"Scams are something that we are watching closely, and are a concern for us," he added.

"Essentially, the TSR is a rating system to inform consumers, what are the measures they have to look out for in transacting online and when buying goods online.

"And at the same time, we also give them the information about the existing e-commerce platforms, and what measures they have in place to secure the transactions online."

Ms Rose Tong, executive director of the Singapore Retailers Association, which was involved in the revision of TR 76, said the ratings helped both consumers and retailers. She added: "With the ratings and all these features put in place, it also gives the retailers greater assurance that they're actually on a platform where the consumers themselves would be very assured that they probably won't be scammed."

It also resonates with retailers in the marketplace, she said.

For future reviews of TR 76, Case president Melvin Yong called for greater disclosure of sellers' identities and contact information by e-marketplaces so consumers can seek recourse more easily in the event of disputes.

There were 2,707 cases of e-commerce scams last year, with $5.8 million lost. Of these, 998 cases were related to transactions on Carousell, and 562 were on Facebook Marketplace.

The platforms are evaluated on whether they verify the seller's identity, monitor for fraudulent seller behaviour, have secure payment solutions available, maintain transaction records and user data, and have reporting and dispute resolution mechanisms.

While those with four ticks had all the features, Facebook Marketplace, which is run by Meta, received a "null" assessment when it came to verifying seller identities and having secure payment solutions available.

Miss Clara Koh, head of public policy for Singapore and Asean at Meta, said the firm supports the initiative, but hoped consumers would look beyond the ticks. "The TSR is an important effort to educate consumers, but we note that it applies a uniform rating to platforms with differing features and therefore have different ways of protecting their users," she added.

Professor Lawrence Loh, director at the Centre for Governance and Sustainability at National University of Singapore, said the new ratings were a step in the right direction in tackling e-commerce scams.

"With so much attention on scams now, I think consumers will have to pay heed to the ratings on the platforms they use," he added.

"But it is a delicate balance that has to be struck between convenience and security. You cannot make it too difficult for buyers and sellers to get on your platform for the sake of ratings, because then there will be a trade-off in the number of users."

He added that if the TSR proves successful, there is potential for it to be expanded to tackle other types of scams.

"If this works, and brings down the number of e-commerce scams, then it paves the way for other areas," he said. "It might lead to job portals receiving a safety standard rating to tackle job scams, or maybe even dating platforms to have some form of assurance standard to tackle love scams."

The TSR is available for public viewing on the MHA website (www.mha.gov.sg/e-commerce-marketplace-transaction-safety-ratings).

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 15, 2022, with the headline Amazon, Lazada, Qoo10 do well in e-commerce ratings to fight scams. Subscribe