First national standard on e-commerce transactions launched in Singapore

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– The country’s first on e-commerce has been formulated to help businesses improve their online retail processes and policies.

It covers e-commerce transactions from pre- to post-purchase activities and will serve as a practical reference for e-retailers and online intermediaries such as e-marketplaces.

The launch of the new standard – Technical Reference 76 (TR 76) – will help build trust and transparency in online transactions, Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and the Singapore Standards Council said on Friday (June 12).

It will also support ESG efforts to bolster small and medium-sized enterprises’ (SMEs) online presence in the growing e-commerce market, the agencies said.

E-commerce transactions have shot up amid the coronavirus outbreak. Online retail sales generated an estimated 17.8 per cent of total retail turnover in April, up from 5.5 per cent in January.

In comparison, online sales accounted for just 5.8 per cent of total retail revenue for the whole of 2019.

Businesses can use the guidelines as a checklist to develop e-commerce policies and communicate clearly to consumers.

They include details on what information merchants need to state regarding their products or services, returns and refunds policies, as well as payment and shipping processes.

This will make it easier for consumers to make informed choices, the agencies said.

For example, information such as taxes, return charges and additional surcharges based on payment modes should be reflected before purchases are made, where applicable. The TR 76 standard also notes best practices when addressing queries, feedback and complaints from consumers.

Nanyang Polytechnic school of business management director Esther Ho said the standard helps consumers decide if a retailer is trustworthy.

She added that the introduction of TR 76 now is timely as shoppers have no choice but to make many of their purchases online amid the pandemic.

“Coupled with the entrants of many and new retailers on the online platform, it is difficult for the shoppers to identify which are the credible ones,” Ms Ho added.

“The lack of experience may lead consumers to fall victim to cheating or unwittingly releasing confidential data to unscrupulous businesses in the market.”

Mr Lucas Tok, a marketing and retail lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic, said the launch of the standard is “a step forward for the industry as a whole”.

While it may take some time for businesses to adopt these practices, given that some have only just started their digital platforms, the guidelines will help them develop a customer-centric approach, he said.

Developing TR 76 was an industry-led effort, comprising representatives from the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case), Singapore Retailers Association, online marketplaces such as Carousell and Shopee, e-retailer FortyTwo, Nanyang Polytechnic’s Singapore Institute of Retail Studies, as well as payment and logistics service providers.

Case executive director Loy York Jiun urged more businesses to take note of TR 76, especially with more consumers now turning to online shopping: “Consumers can also shop with greater assurance knowing that there are clear avenues and processes available to resolve issues post-purchase.”

A webinar to be held on July 2 will outline more about TR76 and how the new guidelines apply to e-commerce transactions. Members of the public can register to attend via upskill@sirs.edu.sg

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