Radar | Jan 25,2020
The Ministry of Innovation & Technology has availed a draft e-transaction regulation, which will regulate businesses and sectoral associations of electronic commerce operators, putting it up for public discussion.
The regulation follows the proclamation that was legislated three months ago to administer the buying and selling of goods or services using the internet. The proclamation also regulated the transfer of money and data through e-transactions and laid a foundation for the formation of a National Digital Economy Council that will be tasked with advising the government on building an economy based on digital computing technologies.
In the making for the past three months, the draft regulation requires all e-commerce operators including individuals who are engaged in the informal business sector through the internet or another information network to secure a Tax Identification Number (TIN). Just like other businesses, e-commerce operators are expected to fulfill their tax obligations and enjoy tax benefits.
So far, there is no regulatory body that issues permits to electronic commerce operators, but they will continue operating with licenses secured from the Ministry of Trade & Industry, according to Abiyot Bayou (PhD), director of the Digital Transformation Programme at the Ministry.
E-commerce operators that sell commodities or provide services have to issue paper or electronic invoices or other proofs of purchase, according to the bill. In order to govern this, the Ministry of Revenues is currently working on crafting an electronic receipt directive to break down how e-receipts are issued.
All the commodities or services to be sold via electronic commerce should meet with the standards set by the government, according to the draft regulation.
In providing information on commodities and services, the regulation states that the e-commerce platform operators should refrain from giving misleading information, including fabricated user reviews. The bill also prohibits sellers from requiring buyers to purchase an additional product by default along with a certain product they picked.
For the delivery and payment of commodities, the e-commerce operators have to work with payment operators licensed by the National Bank of Ethiopia as well as delivery and logistics companies.
“This is to ensure that the ecosystem of the sale, the payment, and the delivery of the goods are protected from the informal market's prevalence,” said Abiyot.
Electronic commerce operators have to avail means and procedures for the collection, obtaining, rectification and erasure of the personal data of clients.
The Ministry has currently drafted a personal data protection proclamation that focuses on how consumers' data is utilised and protected. The draft proclamation was sent to the Office of the Attorney-General for legal review.
The regulation focuses on the protection of consumer rights, because the buyers have no direct contact with the product or the service, and the Ministry has to ensure the necessary safety net for the consumer is set in place, according to Abiyot.
The commodities or services available on the e-commerce platform have to have a fair and accurate description; an itemized price list, including taxes and shipping charges; a description of each additional charge that applies or may apply, such as customs duties or brokerage fees; and the amount of the charge if the business can determine it.
The total amount that must be paid and frequency of payments; the terms and methods of payment; and the delivery address, date, cost and method should be available for the buyers, according to the draft regulation.
Buyers have to have the chance to check their application before completing an online purchase or transaction so that the seller provides them with an opportunity to accept or decline the agreement or correct any errors.
In dealing with transactions online, the operator has to take technical measures and other necessary actions to ensure the safe and stable operations of networks; guard against online violations and crimes; respond to cybersecurity events effectively; and guarantee the safety of electronic commerce transactions. Thus, the operators have to craft a contingency plan for cybersecurity events.
The online transaction platform operator has to retain the information on transactions for goods and services for at least 10 years from the day the action is completed.
Even though the bill is in its early stages and requires additional content, this is a large leap toward the implementation of the e-commerce business in the country, according to Tewodros Tassew, a fintech expert.
“It'll regulate the sector," he said, “however, how the informal market is going to be regulated to ensure proper competition is missing from the bill."
PUBLISHED ON Aug 16,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1059]
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