Internet trade can easily be carried through across the borders. However, a consumer who wants to complain about misconduct on the Internet has up till now encountered many difficulties in connection with complaining across the national border. This also includes the marketing rules of other countries. This new data base is intended to make it easier.
Together with 12 other countries Denmark has established a co-operation against non-serious marketing on the Internet. The participating countries are Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, England and USA. Consumer Ombudsman Hagen Jørgensen is the Danish participant in this co-operation.
On the 23rd of April the homepage www.econsumer.gov. was introduced at a conference for The International Marketing Supervision Network (IMSN) in New York. The project is divided into two parts. A page accessible to the public, where consumers all over the world may complain online, if they have dealt with an Internet dealer who did not comply with the rules of the consumer legislation. Moreover, they can find general consumer information and adresses of the national organizations who take care of consumer interests. The homepage is in four languages: Spanish, German, English and French. The other part of the project - a password protected site - is only accessible to the participating authorities. Here it is possible for the IMSN-organisations to collect and find trends in the cross-border complaints.
"Via this new database the consumers may file their complaints in an easy manner, and the authorities which supervise the marketing in the different countries can easily see where there are problems. This means that the local authorities are able to intervene effectively against fraud on the Internet" says the Danish Consumer Ombudsman Mr. Hagen Jørgensen.
The Consumer Ombudsman increases the efforts on the Internet
The Consumer Ombudsman, Mr. Hagen Jørgensen, considers the database an important tool for securing a safe and confidence-inspiring Internet market for the consumers. The econsumer-database is a welcome follow-up on the report about Internet trade, which the Consumer Ombudsman published in October last year. On basis of an investigation of 18 known shops on the Internet, the report concluded that many Danish Internet shops ignore the rules of the Marketing Practices Act and do not on their homepages inform f.inst. about the cooling-off period and the possibilities of complaint.
In connection with the investigation the Consumer Ombudsman declared that he would intensify the efforts against businesses who market incorrectly over the Internet. Among other things by intensifying and extending the international co-operation.
The IMSN member countries in February carried out a joint investigation of the marketing of the Internet firms. On the annual so-called Sweep-day, where many of the IMSN member organizations investigate specific consumer areas, the compliance with the OECD guidelines for good and proper marketing was tested. The result showed that only a few percent af the investigated 3383 homepages complied with the rules.
The econsumer database will improve the consumers' access to complain. For Scandinavian citizens the possibility of getting their right in connection with Internet firms will soon become even better, because the Danish Consumer Ombudsman and his Nordic colleagues are establishing a Nordic co-operation, where the Consumer Ombudsmen may take action for eachother. The purpose of this co-operation is to secure that the Nordic consumers' possibilities of complaint are not limited by borders.
The Consumer Ombudsman is aware that also internally in Denmark there are problems on the Internet. Hagen Jørgensen is going to establish an increased supervision of marketing on the Internet. A group of his employees will at regular intervals search the Internet for specific problems, which will then be dealt with by the Consumer Ombudsman.
"We intend to permanently have a group of our staff to survey the e-commerce. If we find particularly many complaints in a certain area, we shall investigate and take action in connection with the problem.
"Infringements of the legislation must have consequences" Mr. Hagen Jørgensen declares.