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(No.1 High-Tech News Site in Japanese)

  • Japan Association Issues Guideline for Virtual Shops
  • January 28, 1999 (TOKYO) -- The Japan Direct Marketing Association issued a guideline for certifying which virtual shops are operated "appropriately" on the World Wide Web.
    The guideline was formally approved by the association's board of directors Jan. 19, officials of the body said.

    The Guideline for Direct Marketing Industry is expected to benefit the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) in its effort to introduce a standard mark system which helps consumers find a "publicly certified" virtual shop more easily than before.

    MITI's standard mark system will help more electronic commerce trading houses operate comfortably within the guideline, the officials explained.

    The guideline emphasizes Internet shopping. It is based on two other standards: "The Ethical Code For Direct Marketing" from the marketing association and "The Electronic Commerce Guideline" compiled by the Electronic Commerce Promotion Council of Japan.

    The association's guideline requires electronic commerce traders to provide consumers with information on how to place an order explicitly on the screen, and urges consumers to reconfirm their purchase orders before they send their order messages and send an email message back to consumers to assure them of the immediate delivery of goods.

    It also obliges electronic commerce traders to keep a log of transactions for a certain period of time. The log-keeping period, currently under debate as to whether it should be three months or six months, will be eventually determined after considering the moves of the National Police Agency, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and MITI to submit relevant proposals to the Diet.

    Only a corporation is qualified as an Internet shopping operator, according to the guideline, which is designed to cover an electronic commerce transaction between consumers and traders with offices in Japan. The guideline does not mention self-owned individual traders and services rendered to and from overseas markets.

    On this point, there are many conflicting views among members of the association about electronic commerce and the guideline.

    For example, Masayuki Kakio, senior researcher at the association, said, "It is very difficult for individual traders to cope with possible trouble with consumers caused by Internet shopping. They cannot provide better after-sale support to overseas customers as well."

    He also stressed the importance of coordinating guidelines taken by various countries to avert possible problems with international transactions.

    Why is the guideline applicable only to a corporation as a qualified entity for virtual shopping, and not an individual owner? "It is simple. We need to establish a product liability system to protect consumers from troubles of Internet transactions," Kakio said.

    The association will soon publicize the guideline, which is available at homepage in Japanese. Regardless of whether those making queries are members or non-members, it will ask them to understand and follow the scope of the guideline, the officials said.

    (Nikkei Multimedia)

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    Updated: Wed Jan 27 12:26:31 1999 PDT