Sri Lanka gets one step closer to Geneva-backed first national e-commerce charter

Friday, 7 September 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


  • Second Public-Private Dialogue on SL e-commerce opens in Colombo 
  • CAA & Geneva’s ITC collaborate within six months of first PPD
  • ‘Thanks to EU and ITC for e-commerce support’ - Bathiudeen
  • ‘Preparing for next steps, legislation, awareness, activity schedules’: ITC’s Geist
  • SL e-commerce to grow to $ 400 million by 2022

Within less than six months of its pioneering consultations in Colombo, Sri Lanka swiftly moved one more step closer to formulating an e-commerce framework that will safeguard the country’s digital transactions locally and abroad. 

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s e-commerce business sector is projected to hit $ 400 million by 2022.

“I thank the European Union Delegation to Sri Lanka for their continued support through the EU-Sri Lanka Trade-Related Assistance Project. We acknowledge the efforts by the ITC as the lead implementing agency and for their committed initiatives in leading this second Private-Public Dialogue on Sri Lanka E-Commerce Reform,” said Sri Lanka Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen yesterday in Colombo. 

Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the launch event of the second Private-Public Dialogue on Sri Lanka E-Commerce Reform at the Taj Samudra, Colombo organised jointly by the Consumer Affairs Authority and International Trade Centre, Geneva. 

This second PPD, part of the EU-Sri Lanka Trade Related Assistance Project of Euro 8 million funded by the European Union (2016-2020), follows on the successful completion of the first PPD of 15-16 March in Colombo and seeks to wrap the draft recommendations made by visiting e-commerce expert from Geneva’s ITC Prof. Michael Geist following the first PPD. 

Prof. Geist submitted his first draft report in May 2018, calling for five priority areas of intervention in the roadmap for reforms: access (benefits of access available to all), education, awareness (not only individuals but SMEs and businesses as well), payments (e.g. Why isn’t Paypal here - is it regulatory or any other issue?) and modernisation of consumer protection laws and privacy (how digital transactions are protected across multiple jurisdictions).

“In this second dialogue CAA is working with all stakeholders to identify specific provisions where the current Sri Lanka legal framework falls short in these five themes so that updating national laws by formulating legislative proposals could follow thereafter. 

“We are planning to establish a modern consumer protection framework suitable for an e-commerce marketplace and to encourage the development of the Sri Lankan digital economy by improving in the five areas identified, removing legal and market barriers and fostering trust among both Sri Lankan consumers and SMEs. As a Government Regulatory Agency it is necessary for CAA to establish national policies for consumer protection that encourage good practices applicable also to e-commerce. The Sri Lankan consumer needs to be protected at the Pre-Purchase, Purchase and Post-Purchase stages. This can be done by establishing a good internet infrastructure for e- commerce, updating present legal frameworks on e- commerce, preventing the misuse of consumer data, providing consumer education and enforcing relevant laws. The CAA plans to bring all key stakeholders and I am pleased to say that we have included all stakeholders in today’s PPD - they are the public organistions, civil society organisations, consumers, entrepreneurs and technical experts.”  

Visiting ITC Ecommerce expert Prof. Michael Geist - Full Professor University of Ottawa and Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law who sits on the Board of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority which manages Canada’s .ca domains, said: “You don’t easily pull together such a large group of stakeholders twice – it takes leadership by Minister Bathiudeen, the CAA and a big load of work by ITC. Sri Lanka’s e-commerce value is smaller in comparison to the region and it represents a challenge and opportunity of its potential. My report is designed to find a way forward for Sri Lankan e-commerce. The five areas identified need further work in terms of legislative and programmatic aspects. Consumer protection laws and privacy is a foundational question – laws on protection may be working for offline transactions but not for e-commerce - how do you make them work in a digital environment. Date protection has become a strong need especially since March after passing the General Data Protection and Regulation in the EU and as a result many around the world are paying closer attention to these rules and there is room for action in Sri Lanka on this too. The next stage after this latest session? It could be on moving for legislation and awareness creation. Also deciding who or which stakeholder is responsible for what activity. Also collaborative work with the public and private sectors and both of them with ITC on a global scale.”

According to industry experts, Sri Lanka’s annual domestic e-commerce sales value including services is around an estimated $ 40 million (Sri Lanka Rs. 6.4 billion). This can grow to $ 400 million by 2022. There is growing importance in the retail sector in Sri Lanka’s GDP which has the potential to expand to ecommerce. At present only 0.4% of Sri Lanka’s total annual retail sales ($ 10 billion) is in e-commerce.