Businesses play a key role in maintaining consumer trust
Consumer trust is essential to the proper functioning of markets. This is particularly true in e-commerce, where consumers are unable to inspect products at a distance.
The role of Gadgetboss Uganda as a Business
As confinement measures have moved consumers online and some traders seek to exploit their vulnerability, many businesses have recognized the importance of strengthening trust. In March, a survey of consumers found that 52% of adults prefer buying from companies that are publicly protecting customers and staff against COVID-19 risks. Some businesses have changed consumer policies in response to COVID-19 (e.g. offering free shipping, extending time-periods for change-of-mind returns or waiving cancellation fees) and are highlighting options such as no-contact delivery or pick-up services. Gadget Boss Uganda has Integrated Mobile Money Payments so that Customer payment are than online.
Given the large share of e-commerce that they command, online marketplaces have a role to play in strengthening consumer trust during the crisis and promoting responsible conduct of third party sellers on their platforms. Some say they are actively monitoring their sites for scams, excessive pricing and misleading health claims, removing listings and/or suspending accounts, and are also calling for increased support from authorities to identify rogue traders. In the European Union, for example, some have established channels to flag illegal content to member states’ authorities.
Cross-sector and international co-operation
The crisis has amplified the need for inter-agency co-operation. For example, some product safety and health agencies now share responsibilities over products such as hand sanitizers and face-masks that are manufactured by non-traditional industries and individuals. Consumer and competition authorities have discussed strategies to minimize price gouging, and communication regulators have worked with consumer agencies in some countries to protect consumers from excessive communication services charges.
The crisis has also underscored the interconnected nature of the global community, and the need to support cross-border e-commerce through enhanced international information sharing and co-operation. The Gadgetboss.ug and other fora can create efficiencies for consumer agencies (including those with limited resources), businesses and civil society, by enabling them to share best practice, market intelligence and consumer messaging. The International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network (ICPEN), WHO and the Ministry of Health has developed social media campaigns to promote consumer reporting of COVID-19 related consumer protection issues, particularly scams; the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has released information on country initiatives to alert consumers about COVID-19 scams, along with recommendations for governments; and advocacy groups such as Consumers International have contributed guidance on ways to protect consumers from COVID-19 threats.
Businesses are encouraged to:
- Incorporate learning from behavioral insights in the promotion, sale and delivery of products, and minimize techniques that take advantage of consumers’ behavioral biases. Clear messaging to reassure consumers about supply chain robustness may help alleviate panic buying.
- Acknowledge that more consumers may be vulnerable during the crisis and consider needs due to health and safety concerns as well as job and other financial losses.
- Warn consumers about known scams and increase efforts to identify and remove false or misleading advertising.
- (For online marketplaces) Identify and remove listings with misleading claims or excessive pricing. Communicate regularly with authorities about efforts undertaken and challenges encountered.