Industry Articles

Singapore Launches First National Standard for E-commerce Transactions

DICCS2122_ED02_Pix01E-marketplaces and e-retailers now have a reference guide that sets out what they should provide across the entire transaction cycle.

To support enterprises in leveraging online platforms, Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and the Singapore Standards Council (SSC) launched the first national standard, Technical Reference 76 (TR 76) Guidelines for electronic commerce transactions in June 2020.

For the past two years, online retail sales in Singapore had generated some 5 to 5.8 per cent of total retail sales value. More recently, Singapore saw figures increase from 5.5 per cent in January 2020 to 17.8 per cent in April, reflecting the substantial increase in e-commerce transactions, fueled by the COVID-19 outbreak.

TR 76 supports ESG’s efforts to bolster SMEs’ online presence in the growing e-commerce market amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Singapore Retailers Association (SRA) Executive Director Rose Tong expects online retail to make up a larger share of retail sales with the prolonged COVID-19 situation. She highlighted, “As more retail companies venture into online platforms, TR 76 will support businesses in implementing e-commerce effectively and efficiently. We strongly recommend retailers to use this opportunity to go or expand online, diversify, and tap on new customer segments both locally and overseas.”

Further driving the need to grow the e-commerce market, Ms Choy Sauw Kook, Director-General (Quality & Excellence), Enterprise Singapore, said, “E-commerce is a new stream of business for retailers diversifying from traditional brick and mortar shops. E-marketplaces and e- retailers will be able to implement, maintain and improve their internal processes and policies related to business-to-consumer and consumer-to-consumer transactions. TR 76 will also help these businesses develop customer-centric business policies and processes, to enhance consumer confidence and trust; key considerations which will drive the growth of the e-industry.”

What’s in the TR 76
TR 76 serves as a practical reference for e-retailers, and online intermediaries such as e-marketplaces. The guidelines provide comprehensive end-to-end coverage of the e-commerce transactions’ process, from pre-purchase activities of browsing and selection, to purchasing and payment procedures, and post-purchase activities which include fulfilment, delivery, tracking of products, and returns, refunds, and exchange. The guidelines also cover best practices on customer support and managing relations amongst e-marketplaces, merchants and consumers.

Businesses can refer to the guidelines as a checklist to develop customer-centric e-commerce processes and policies, enabling customers to make more informed purchases.

During this process, information regarding the e-retailer or merchant should be clearly reflected on e-commerce platforms.

The products or services should be presented with information and designs that accurately reflect the key selling points. The functionality and benefits of the product or service must be correct and should include any health and safety concerns, its availability and whether there are guarantees or warranties available.

Prices should be displayed with the applicable currency. Reviews, comparisons and ratings could be used to assist consumers in making an informed decision.

Purchase Activities
The e-marketplace and e-retailer must ensure that the information for the product/service being purchased in the shopping cart are listed clearly.

This includes the name, description, quantity, availability and price point; the product warranty and validity period; any applicable taxes such as goods and services tax (GST) or import/export duties; modes of payment; delivery options, its fees and estimated delivery date; amount, frequency and expenses arising from recurring charges; any free gifts or purchase-with-purchase entitlements tagged to the purchases; any other additional surcharges based on payment mode or other special requirements e.g. express delivery and refunds and exchange policies.

A variety of electronic payment options that offer convenience, security, and smooth user experience should be provided, with a strong security strategy to ensure customer data is safe against breaches.

Once the payment is complete, customers should be notified, which should include all the billing details.

TR 76 covers aspects within the scope of delivery including delivery time, product handling during delivery, payment upon delivery, self-collection, delivery information, proof of delivery, and failed delivery.

E-marketplaces and e-retailers working with third-party logistics providers need to ensure they adhere to applicable handling protocols and that delivery times are within the estimated time promised to customers.

Information on the delivery status should be provided upon request. Additionally, the e-marketplace and the logistics provider should agree on the suitable proof of the delivery method such as photo evidence or signatures.

Any refund policies should be clear and include the conditions for refunds, the timeframe and mode of reimbursements.

Customer Support
E-marketplaces and e-retailers should put up information relating to terms and conditions, frequently-asked-questions, and mechanisms to manage interactions with customers. These include mechanisms to handle general enquiry, feedback and complaints, as well as transaction disputes.

Webinar to learn more about TR 76
ESG also worked with NYP-SIRS to organise a webinar on 2 July 2020, to assist businesses in implementing TR 76 in their operations. Building a Trusted Online Business saw participants learning about TR 76 and how the new guidelines will apply to e-commerce transactions. Retailers diversifying into e-commerce took away insights on creating smooth, secure, and customer-friendly processes for their online customers. Companies which had adopted TR 76 shared their experiences and tips on how to maximise the guidelines for better outputs.