And I thought the “Do Not Track” and “Online Privacy Bill of Rights” were a little difficult to figure out with all the potential holes and changes that would be made before they passed. The intentions may be good, but the end results are often muddled. Now comes along the Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act that was passed at the end of December.

I read through an official summary of it, but it took another blog on AdLawAccess to help me understand it. In a nutshell, the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act does the following:

  1. It defines a “post-transaction third party seller” as the person or company selling you something online through another merchant. The best way I’ve thought about this is buying something off of Amazon, but it’s not being shipped from Amazon. Rather, it’s shipped from the company that manufactured it.
  2. This third-party seller must clearly disclose exactly what is being sold, the price and that they are not affiliated with the merchant (in my analogy above, it would be that they are not affiliated with Amazon).
  3. The third-party seller must then receive express consent from you (the consumer) so that they can charge you the amount for what is being purchased, and obtain your payment information (credit card or payment information) directly from you. Again, following my analogy, it would be illegal for Amazon to share your financial account number to the third-party seller.

These first three items alone already have people in a tizzy claiming how much more inconvenient it will be for both buyers and sellers. I’m afraid I’m going to have to go with the inconvenience to sellers as opposed to buyers. Why? Because the extra step of deciding if I really want this third-party seller to have my credit card number is worth more to me than to them. Not every company is shady. The ones that are, however, will tend to the ones most likely to suffer if one does a little bit of digging and sees that the company doesn’t have a favorable rating.

The Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act goes a bit further, too. Are you familiar with negative option offers? Those are the crafty little items added where you as the consumer have to take action in order to not receive future goods or services from this third-party. What comes to mind as an example are the old Columbia House Cassette or CD clubs where, if you don’t send the card in each month, they automatically accept that as a “yes” that you want the selection of the month sent to you. And you’re automatically charged, too.

The Act prohibits this sort of thing by stating that the third-party company must clearly and conspicuously (preferably in BIG, BOLD letters) tell you they’re going to do this, then get your express consent before charging you (along with getting your financial information again) and, finally, provide an easy way for you to opt out of the recurring charges.

Again, this seems to be annoying people and I’m guessing it’ll be the sellers, not the consumers. Why? Because, again, I’d rather have this Act on my side so that if I do purchase something and there’s a negative option I didn’t realize, they can no longer take my silence as a “yes” and start automatically charging me.

Others have wondered how this will be enforced or how it’ll work for sellers outside the US. I imagine that violators within the US will find a way to move their operations to another country rather than operate in an ethical manner and for those who they do violate here will turn them in. I would. And for those companies that are already outside the US and selling goods or services through a company also outside the US? They really can’t be held accountable. I imagine, though, that if they are selling their products or services as a third-party through a US-based company that they would have to follow the same rules.

Time will tell how this pans out.

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