The Consumer and Consumer Affairs Authority (CCAA) has carried out a study to determine whether Bhutan’s e-commerce operators comply with minimum requirements and interventions required to improve service quality and protect consumers, as per the Market Monitoring Report on E-Commerce Entities.
According to the study, currently, there are 107 registered e-commerce entities in the country. Thimphu has the highest number of registered electronic commerce entities with 91, followed by Chukha and Paro, with four each and Sarpang with two. Monggar, Pemagatshel, Punakha, Trashigang, Tsirang, and Wangduephodrang have one registered e-commerce entity each. However, of the 107 registered entities, CCAA found that only 52 were still active, 21 were not operational, and the remaining 34 were unable to be contacted. From the total active entities, 32 companies provide products, 15 provide services, and only 5 provide both goods and services.
The CCAA contacted e-commerce companies, and checked their existing websites and social media accounts (Facebook and Instagram) for compliance which were possible to contact.
The report also shows that 75% of the 52 active entities display the price of their products and services online. According to their own accounts, 80.8% of electronic commerce provides cash memos or purchase receipts when the products are delivered, including electronic invoices.
The CCAA also found that at least 92% of e-commerce entities provide some information on the quality and quantity of information on a product or service offered, although it affects the purchase decision.
In addition, the report shows that more than 50% of entities have some form of product reimbursement and/or cancellation policy on their websites and social media accounts. Of these entities, 64.62% have their own website; 15.38 % do not have their own website but run through Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, and WhatsApp.
25% of enterprises have mobile applications through which consumers can order, compared to 75% who don’t.
Of the 44 active e-commerce entities with websites, a staggering 98.08% do not have their license displayed prominently on their website, which makes consumers feel less confident dealing with the entity.
On the basis of these conclusions, the CCAA made some recommendations, which includes CCAA need to issue a letter of correction to electronic commerce enterprises that do not comply with the minimum requirements to make the necessary improvements to their websites and social media accounts immediately.
In addition, entities with no or an unclear return or cancellation policy must be instructed to formulate a policy and publish it prominently on their website or social media accounts. The CCAA could help develop such a policy template that they could use as a guide.
The report also says that regular monitoring of electronic commerce is required to ensure that it is recognized and complies with the requirements for consumer protection when making business use of electronic commerce.
Meanwhile, E-commerce is simply the activity of electronically buying or selling products through online services or over the Internet.
It must operate in accordance with the 2019 Electronic Commerce Guidelines and comply with the Consumer Protection Act of 2012 and the Consumer Protection Rules and Regulations of 2015.
As per the E-commerce Guidelines, 2019, e-commerce entities are required to meet the subsequent minimum standards, such as obtaining an e-commerce license, Display the license prominently on their website or social media account. Issue e-invoices or paper invoices after sales, provide clear information about the goods and services offered. Provide the price of goods or services, including the cost of packaging and delivery, and provide a clear written return or cancellation policy.
Nidup Lhamo from Thimphu