National standard launched to improve e-commerce processes

Singapore’s first standard on e-commerce transactions has been formulated to help businesses improve their online retail and policies.

It covers e-commerce transactions from pre-to post-purchase activities, and will serve as a practical reference for e-retailers and online intermediaries such as e-marketplaces.

The launch of the new standard – Technical Reference 76 (TR 76) – will help build trust and transparency in online transactions, Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and the Singapore Standards Council said yesterday.

TR 76 will also support ESG efforts to bolster small and medium-sized enterprises’ online presence in the growing e-commerce market, the agencies said.

E-commerce transactions have shot up amid the coronavirus pandemic. Online retail sales generated an estimated 17.8 per cent of total retail turnover in April, up from 5.5 per cent in January.

In comparison, online sales accounted for just 5.8 per cent of total retail revenue for the whole of last year.

Businesses can use the guidelines as a checklist to develop e-commerce policies and communicate them clearly to consumers.

The guidelines include details on what information merchants need to state regarding their products or services, return and refund policies, as well as payment and shipping processes.

This will make it easier for consumers to make informed choices, the agencies said.

For example, information about taxes, return charges and additional surcharges based on payment modes should be reflected before purchases are made, where applicable.

The TR 76 standard also notes best practices when addressing queries, feedback and complaints from consumers.

Nanyang Polytechnic School of Business Management director Esther Ho said the standard helps consumers decide if a retailer is trustworthy. She added that the introduction of TR 76 now is timely, as shoppers have little choice but to make many of their purchases online amid the pandemic.

“Coupled with the entrance of many new retailers on the online platform, it is difficult for shoppers to identify which are the credible ones,” she said.

“The lack of experience may lead consumers to fall victim to cheating, or unwittingly release confidential data to unscrupulous businesses in the market.”

Mr Lucas Tok, a marketing and retail lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic, said the launch of the standard is “a step forward for the industry as a whole”.

While it may take some time for businesses to adopt these practices, given that some have only just started their digital platforms, the guidelines will help them develop a customer-centric approach, he said.

Developing TR 76 was an industry-led effort, with representatives from the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case), Singapore Retailers Association, online marketplaces such as Carousell and Shopee, e-retailer FortyTwo, Nanyang Polytechnic’s Singapore Institute of Retail Studies, as well as payment and logistics service providers.

Case executive director Loy York Jiun urged more businesses to take note of TR 76, especially with more consumers now turning to online shopping. “Consumers can also shop with greater assurance knowing that there are clear avenues and processes available to resolve issues post-purchase,” he said.

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