Responding to complaints and surveys of consumers related to them acquiring and using intangible digital assets, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) issued guidance on October 27 for protecting online consumers of digital content.
“Driven by the expansion of the Internet and mobile devices, digital content is the fastest growing e-commerce category and secure and easy-to-use e-commerce payments are key to enabling further growth,” the OECD states on its website. “While this has brought considerable benefits to consumers, including ready access to a wide range of high-quality products, often at reduced costs, it has also created issues that countries and business now need to address.”
According to the report, the types of challenges that consumers face when acquiring and using digital content products include inadequate information disclosure, misleading or unfair commercial practices, concerns about how personal data is used and shared, inadequate dispute resolution and redress mechanisms, and unauthorized charges associated with consumer usage of apps and online games.
The guidance provides recommendations for three areas of digital content. It calls for measures to prevent children from being able to purchase in-app products without parental consent. It calls for legal certainty and consistency within and between countries in the area of consumer protection. And it calls on businesses to ensure that consumers have appropriate knowledge about how their personal data is collected, used, and shared.
In the area of data privacy, the guidance calls on companies to provide consumers with clear and conspicuous information about the collection and use of their personal data and the measures that consumers can take to manage such data. It suggests providing consumers with appropriate choice mechanisms to allow them to limit or deny the collection and use of personal data other than that which is legally required or necessary to complete a transaction, use a digital content product, or update such product. Further, it asks companies to obtain express consent before collecting and using sensitive data.
OECD comprises 34 member countries from North and South America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region. Based in Paris, it provides a forum for governments seeking to work together to address common problems. The guidance was developed by OECD’s Committee on Consumer Policy, which first issued consumer protection guidelines related to electronic commerce in 1999.