As more Brazilians enter the class of the digitally included, e-commerce has also grown at a steady pace: online shopping has generated R$22.5B ($11.2B) in 2012, an increase of 20 percent compared to the previous year, according to e-bit consulting.
But the lack of basic guidelines for companies has meant that consumers were let down in case of any issues, such as delivery of faulty products or goods simply not turning up. Dissatisfied customers would often reference the Consumer Rights Code, which did not have specific provisions for e-commerce until now — meaning some malicious vendors would operate under generic terms and literally run away with customers' money.
National consumer rights bureau Procon has been listing about 270 websites that should be avoided since 2011, but that is simply not enough: who is going to remember checking said list before buying anything online?
In order to tackle the lack of information and for the sake of clarity, the new legislation foresees obligations and penalties to online outlets that fail to supply the registration number, name, telephone number and physical address of the company maintaining the website, as well as contact information clearly marked on the website.
The regulations also aim at addressing informality: online shops that so far have been operating as one-man/woman bands will need to establish actual companies — unless goods are being sold through websites such as Mercado Livre, the Brazilian eBay equivalent.
Brazilians are big fans of group buying websites such as Groupon and local alternatives including ClickOn, which also happen to be top scorers in terms of complaints to consumer body Procon. The new e-commerce rules will also affect such websites, where the minimum quantity of sales needed to deliver goods and services will have to be clearly stated, as well as the deadline to users for utilization of vouchers.
Dropshipping (the practice of selling products without actually having them in stock) was also addressed in the new rules. Websites selling items that might be coming from China, for example, will have to let customers know about the (lack of) availability of the product and how it will be supplied. This means that if there will be any delays caused by issues such as customs checks or product containers, the customer should be aware of that before agreeing to buy.
The news of the creation of specific rules for e-commmerce, as well as regulations focused on online privacy introduced last month, show that Brazil is starting to recognize the importance of the web as a market in its own right. Better late than never.