Last October, a new regulation on electronic commerce was issued in Costa Rica. These new rules apply to all interactions between businesses and consumers made through websites, email, social media, apps, or any other types of electronic means. The e-commerce regulation was enacted as a new chapter to the Regulations of the Consumer Protection Law, entitled "Consumer Protection in the Context of Electronic Commerce".
This reform requires businesses to make important adjustments in their electronic interactions with consumers. It also gives the authority to the Consumer Protection Agency to enforce the rules and impose penalties for non-compliance.
The main areas affected by this reform are:
- Advertising: The Regulation requires to clearly identify advertising materials, and the identity of advertisers. This affects all direct or indirect commercial communications, including "influencer marketing". Also, all websites, apps, and electronic means of communications must include certain mandatory information about the advertiser, as well as the transactions that may take place electronically.
- Reviews and complaints: All electronic media advertising a product and/or business must include the possibility to post and publish consumer evaluations and/or reviews of their products, and it is forbidden to delete negative feedback or scores. Also, all commercial electronic media must have a process to receive complaints. This process must be free of cost and accessible by the same means used to carry out the sales.
- Online sales: Unless otherwise informed, products sold online must be delivered within 24 hours after the purchase is made.
- Opt-in obligations: In addition, all consumer obligations and expression of consent must be express. It is not permissible to have pre-selected boxes, or to have purchases without having prior access to all the necessary and mandatory information for the purchase. In addition, once the sale is made, it is mandatory to send the consumer a receipt of the transaction made.
- Personal information: Prior consent is required to be able to send commercial information to consumers by electronic means. Likewise, all personal information must be treated confidentially and in full adherence to the provisions of the Data Protection Law and the General Telecommunications Law. Even though these are previously existing regulations, the novelty of this provision is that it appoints the Consumer Protection Agency as an additional enforcement body.
- Security: Businesses have the obligation to carry out the transactions and payments in a secure electronic environment, and use a certifying entity to validate their processes and technology. This must be informed to consumers prior to the payment of their purchases.
- Penalties: In case of any breach, the penalties could be up to approximately US$ 40,000.00.
These are the main modifications introduced by the reform of the Regulation. However, there are additional obligations and applicable consumer relations, established by general consumer protection rules and regulations.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.