MORE e-commerce protection for consumers is being sought as shoppers face an increasing threat of being exposed to online criminals and unfair practices.The Strategic Thinking Parliamentary Bloc, headed by MP Ahmed Al Salloom, is seeking to overhaul the 2012 Consumer Protection Law and its executive bylaws introduced in 2014, to reflect the change in retail habits.Mr Al Salloom, who is also a Bahrain Chamber board member, believes that addressing e-commerce concerns is vital. “Online trade has gained in popularity ever since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020,” said Mr Al Salloom, who is also the chairman of the Bahrain Small and Medium Enterprises Development Society.

“The e-commerce market continues to evolve and even if there are solid consumer protection laws in the country, they need to be regularly reviewed and updated.“Businesses in Bahrain and across the GCC follow strict codes of conduct but the legal and technical aspects of consumer protection are challenging when it comes to handling global platforms.”Mr Al Salloom said issues of concern relate to online exhibitions, promotions, sales, as well as exchange and return practices and policies.“Billions of e-commerce deals are carried out each day and the issues are becoming more complex as the market continues to boom,” he added.“Existing consumer protection legislations and rules will need to be modified and upgraded not just to tackle issues arising nowadays but to also take into account the increase in artificial intelligence operations.

”Parliament’s financial and economic affairs committee chairwoman MP Zainab Abdulamir highlighted fraud and misinformation as areas of constant concern.“GCC governments need to look at the institutions currently responsible for consumer protection and think about how their roles need to evolve,” she said.“There has to be a clear understanding of when to use prevention measures versus enforcement measures; and to make sure consumers and the general community are better informed to help people safeguard their own interests. “Bahrain should take a long-term view of consumer protection, recognising that the challenges of tomorrow will be different from today.”Shura Council financial and economic affairs committee chairman Khalid Al Maskati said the aim of advanced consumer protection legislation would be to serve the needs of the trade and industry sectors, in addition to helping consumers by ensuring quality and safety requirements.

“Consumer protection is an ongoing effort to prevent commerce abuses from happening, minimise their impact when they inevitably do happen, and keep a specific type of abuse that has already happened from recurring,” he said. “The numerous ways in which consumers can be taken advantage of means that countries must be prepared to deal with problems in different areas and keep altering their consumer protection framework.”Information Affairs Minister Dr Ramzan Al Nuaimi told parliamentarians in October that the aim of registering websites and social media accounts was to offer two-way protection – to the account owners as well as members of the public.He gave an example of a complaint received from a girl who used a substance advertised by an unregistered account on social media that led her suffering a serious skin condition.

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