Statement of the United States and the European Union on Building Consumer Confidence in E-Commerce and the Role of Alternative Dispute Resolution
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release
December 18, 2000

                       Washington, December 18, 2000

     In the U.S.-EU Joint Statement on Electronic Commerce issued in
December 1997, we agreed to work towards important goals and objectives in
the area of electronic commerce.  We now reaffirm these important goals and
objectives, including the agreement to provide ?active support for the
development, preferably on a global basis, of self-regulatory codes of
conduct and technologies to gain consumer confidence in electronic
commerce.?  We also reaffirm our commitment to the OECD Guidelines on
Consumer Protection in the Context of Electronic Commerce issued in
December 1999.

     Our common aim is to help generate consumer confidence, which is
necessary for open, competitive, and cross-border electronic commerce.
Ensuring consumer protection and generating consumer confidence requires a
combination of private sector initiatives and a clear, consistent and
predictable legal framework.

     The means of building consumer confidence and consumer protection in
shopping online is good business practice and enforceable self-regulatory
programmes such as codes of conduct and trustmarks.  Key elements to
building consumer confidence and consumer protection also include security
and confidentiality, respect for privacy, high standards of customer
service, timely delivery, full and fair disclosure of information, and
responsiveness to complaints.

    We recognise that consumers should have meaningful access to redress
consistent with the applicable legal framework and should be protected from
fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair practices.

     The Internet, which can support the growth of cross-border consumer
transactions at unprecedented levels, poses challenges to the existing
legal framework.  The issues of applicable law and jurisdiction will be
difficult to resolve in the near term, but solutions at the international
level would help to achieve our shared goals of global electronic commerce
growth, consumer confidence and the predictability of transactions.

     If parties cannot resolve consumer issues directly, using ADR is one
means of doing so.  Easy access to fair and effective ADR, especially if
provided online, has the potential to increase consumer confidence in
cross-border electronic commerce and may reduce the need for legal action.
We, accordingly, agree on the importance of promoting its development and

     The expansion of electronic commerce will be essentially market-led
and driven by private initiative.  In addition, all interested stakeholders
- including governments, consumer groups, industry and academics - should
work cooperatively to facilitate a dialogue, encourage private sector and
other initiatives, raise consumer awareness about enforceable
self-regulatory programs and promote the development and use of fair and
effective ADR mechanisms, in particular online.  Moreover, in order to
promote fair and effective ADR in the cross-border context, efforts to
develop and implement ADR should involve international cooperation among
all interested stakeholders and the promotion of international
partnerships.  In addition, we encourage all stakeholders to continue to
participate actively in international workshops and other fora on this
important topic, which will help support further development of ADR.

     At present, there are a wide variety of ADR schemes being developed
and implemented in the marketplace, employing various different approaches
and technologies.  Governments should maintain adaptable policies that
encourage the continued growth and development of new and innovative ADR
mechanisms, technologies or approaches that are fair and effective.

     In order to promote consumer confidence, ADR mechanisms should be fair
and effective.  We agree that we share certain general principles to
achieve fairness and effectiveness.  These general principles include: the
impartiality of any decision-makers; the accessibility of the systems and
procedures, which should be easy to find and easy to use; the need to
ensure that the mechanisms are at low or no cost to the consumer relative
to the amount in dispute; transparency, including the importance of
providing consumers with clear and conspicuous information about the
procedures and commitments involved sufficient to enable informed choice
and decision-making; and the timeliness of redress.  Stakeholders should
continue to work to implement these fundamental principles and others that
relate to fairness and effectiveness in the context of particular ADR
mechanisms, taking into account the value, complexity and other
characteristics of the transaction or dispute at issue.

     Concerning law enforcement, businesses, consumers and governments
should work together to detect, prevent and stop fraudulent, deceptive or
unfair activity related to ADR.  ADR providers, consumers and businesses
should be encouraged to forward information on consumer complaints
regarding fraud, deception, or other serious misconduct with regulatory and
law enforcement agencies.  Governments should cooperate in enforcing
consumer protection laws against businesses engaging in fraudulent,
deceptive or unfair activity related to consumer transactions on the
Internet, such as misrepresentation of compliance with seal programmes or
codes of conduct related to ADR.  For example, we should cooperate on
consumer complaints and explore cooperation on online information sharing.

     Businesses, consumer groups and governments should work together to
educate consumers and businesses about good business practices, including
ADR, as a means to ensure fair and effective implementation and
enforcement, and promote consumer confidence to the fullest extent

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