Consumer Dispute Resolution in B2C E-commerce in Sri Lanka: A Comparative Legal Analysis
E-commerce has emerged as a significant turning factor of the global economy since the last quarter of the 20th century. As a result of the convenient and efficient nature of the e-commerce traditional consumer transactions have rapidly been changed into online transactions. However, it is evident that online consumers have to expose serious violations of their consumer rights other than the offline consumers during a Business to Consumer (B2C) transaction. One of the major problems arises in the post-purchasing stage of a B2C transaction is dispute resolution between consumer and the trader. If goods are not delivered or delivered in an unsatisfactory condition, consumers may have difficulties to communicating with the trader. This situation becomes more complicated when the consumer and the trader are in two jurisdictions particularly in cross-border disputes. As the United Nations Guidelines on Consumer Protection declares fair, effective and transparent dispute resolution mechanism is much necessary to uphold the consumer‘s right to redress. Therefore, at present, most of the countries, including European Union, South Africa and United Kingdom have focused on more flexible, out of court solutions such as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and Online Dispute Resolution (ODR). However, in the Sri Lankan context, the existing consumer dispute resolution mechanism under the Consumer Affairs Authority Act is completely proceeding in an offline context. Therefore, this research intends to analyze whether the existing consumer dispute resolution mechanism in Sri Lanka is adequate to address the disputes arise in B2C e-commerce transactions. Comparative legal analysis method has been utilized in order to identify the drawbacks in Sri Lankan law and suggest recommendations. Accordingly, the findings of the research revealed that the existing consumer dispute mechanism under the Consumer Affairs Authority Act in Sri Lanka needs to be amended in order to accommodate easy to use, out of court mechanism to resolve domestic and cross border e-commerce disputes in a timely manner. This mechanism can be utilized as an ADR or ODR system, which allows consumers to file their complaints electronically and reach a decision within a reasonable time period.
Keywords: Consumer Dispute Resolution, E-commerce, B2C Transactions, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Online Dispute Resolutions