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Laws governing e-commerce incomplete, consumers at risk – Law Professor 

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By Edward Acquah, GNA 

www.ghanareaders.com

Accra, Feb. 24, GNA- The existing regulatory framework intended to protect consumers in the digital marketplace is fragmented and incomplete, exposing consumers to risk.

Professor Richard Frimpong Oppong, a Professor of Law at the San Diego School of Law in the USA, said the current regulatory regime did not adequately address issues relating to consumer protection, adding that a significant component of the existing laws predated the advent of e-commerce. 

“Regarding sale of goods, the principal statute is the Sale of Goods Act. This legislation was based on the English Sales of Goods Act, 1893. 

“…From a consumer protection perspective, the principal law regulating the sale of goods in Ghana resides in a 60-year-old legislation. Clearly, the Act was not made for our digital age,” he said. 

Prof. Oppong was delivering the final lecture of a three-day lecture series for this year’s J.B. Danquah Memorial Lecture organised by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS) in Accra on Wednesday, February 23, 2022. 

The memorial lectures were instituted in 1968 in memory of Dr J.B. Danquah, a foundation member of the GAAS, who died in prison in February 1965.  

As part of measures to extend consumer protection to the e-commerce space, the Government has passed new regulations in recent years to augment existing laws governing the sale of goods. 

The laws enacted include the Electronic Transactions Act, 2008, and the Payment Systems and Services Act, 2019. 

The Electronic Transactions Act among others imposes on suppliers a duty to disclose a defined list of information to consumers on their electronic platforms to ensure that the consumer makes an informed decision about a transaction. 

The Payment Systems and Services Act seeks to amend and consolidate the laws relating to payment systems, payment services and to regulate institutions, which carry on payment service and electronic money business and to provide for related matters. 

Prof. Oppong said in spite of efforts made to address the regulatory gaps, the existing laws, “does not cover the full panoply of what consumers purchase or access from the digital marketplace.” 

He said for instance, though the Electronic Transactions Act offers consumers the right to cancel their orders within 14 days of receiving the goods, and seven days after concluding an agreement regarding services, the value of the right to cancel is “significantly diminished.” 

“This is because the Act provides a long list of transactions for, which the statutory right to cancel does not apply, including foodstuffs, beverages or other goods that are intended for everyday consumption,” he said. 

In the case of the Payment Systems and Services Act, Prof. Oppong said the law did not impose substantive obligations on sellers of goods and service providers in the digital marketplace as it imposed on electronic money users and payment service providers. 

Touching on the emergence of digital labour platforms, Prof. Oppong advocated for a legislation that would recognise that workers who provided services on digital labour platforms, including Uber and Bolt were entitled to the rights conferred on workers under Ghanaian law. 

“In the absence of legislative intervention, the courts have a critical role to play in developing Ghanaian consumer law and employment law to keep pace with e-commerce and the evolving nature of work,” he said. 

GNA 

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