Monday, December 24, 2007

CyberChristmas and consumer rights

Keeping with the trend of previous years, it seems that this year the online sales are growing far more than proportional than high street sales in UK, with the addition of having several shops starting their Christmas Sales online before the Boxing Day Sales in their brick and mortars shops. According to the BBC, the Interactive Media in Retail Group's CEO, James Roper, said that their projections suggested an increase of 66% in the amount spent on Christmas day online. On the other hand, in the other side of the Atlantic Internet sales rose at the slowest pace on record, probably due to the impact of the credit crunch, fuel prices and overall economic uncertainty...These two pieces of information can be used for many things, like showing the difference in consumer sentiment across the Atlantic, or proving that the argument that strong consumer and privacy rights hurt businesses and are not conducive towards a online business friendly environment are simply not correct. The difference in protection between UK and the US is huge if type, depth and coverage are combined and, if those proponents of self-regulation were right, the US should always be ahead. However, the fact is that the issue is quite complex and there are many factors that affect the creation of an online business friendly environment, and this Christmas data seems to show that either those other factors outweigh greatly the alleged negative impact of strict regulation or that the strict regulation is one of the factors positively affecting online sales (one of the reports does refer to increased consumer confidence in Internet as one of the causes). So the conclusion, again, is that if consumer protection in general and privacy in particular are a cause of unfriendliness to e-business but other factors are more important, they still should be strictly protected by regulation due to their minimum negative impact and the existence of an array of instruments establishing them as rights, and if they are, as more evidence suggest, a positive influence in the creation of an e-business friendly environment, the main market players should stop being hostage of the few industries that benefit from the lack of strict legislation on consumer rights and privacy protection and start joining consumer rights groups in the quest to get proper cross-sector legislation for the protection of such rights enacted in both sides of the Atlantic.

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