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Initiative to Secure Proper Trading and Marketing on the Internet

08. September 2003

The Nordic consumer ombudsmen together have made a number of recommendations as to how enterprises should behave when they market their products on the Internet.

Consumers who use the Internet should not be exposed to unethical and misleading marketing. This is the opinion of  the consumer ombudsmen in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland  who to-day publish a  position paper on the activities in Cyberspace. The position paper comprises all activities directed to the Nordic market via the Internet regardless where the enterprise is domiciled.

The position paper is not actually a set of rules but rather a number of recommendations to businessmen which may secure that the consumers are treated well in Cyperspace. The consumer ombudsmen are of the opinion that by following these recommendations Businessmen may contribute to an increase of  the consumers'  confidence in the Internet. And this is a prerequisite for regarding the Internet as a serious medium, says the Danish consumer ombudsman Hagen Jørgensen.

In accordance with the position paper businessmen must be careful to provide information about themselves and their products, and also they should inform the consumers if and to which extent they make registrations of the consumers. Moreover, the Nordic consumer ombudsmen are of the opinion that traders should refrain from sending e-mail to consumers who have not given their consent (the so-called spamming).

The position paper also gives recommendations as to how businessmen should use links. As an example, when a businessman uses hyperlinks to material other than his own, the businessman is, basically, liable also for the content of such material.

The position paper also contains recommendations as to how the traders should deal with complaints. For instance, all reasonable mail expenses connected with the return of defective products/services should be paid by the seller.

The position paper moreover contains recommendations regarding marketing directed at children and young persons. By way of example, businessmen should not offer children or young persons rewards for staying on or participating in activities on the Internet.

Recently an AIM-investigation showed that 70 percent of frequent Internet users are not shopping via the Internet. Among the explanations were lack of security, confidence or knowledge of the seller - or that the consumers were not able to evaluate the products offered for sale. The Nordic position paper may be a tool for the businessmen to increase the consumers'  confidence in electronic trade and marketing, says the Danish consumer ombudsman.

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