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BBB Posts Draft of New Code of Online Business Practices

The Better Business Bureau system released a draft of its new Code of Online Business Practices and began seeking public comment on the code. It can be viewed here.

The BBB said the proposed code builds on its eight decades of experience in fostering ethical business practices.

The code also draws on the experience BBBOnLine has gained while reviewing more than 5,000 commercial Web sites to evaluate their qualifications for participation in the BBBOnLine Reliability Seal and BBBOnLine Privacy Seal Programs.

"This new code will be a roadmap for businesses engaged in e-commerce, including many that are new and inexperienced," said Kenneth J. Hunter, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the umbrella organization for the 132 BBBs in the United States and Puerto Rico.

"We believe the best way to protect consumers is to develop common business practices that reflect high standards of conduct, and to encourage the business community to adopt them."

The BBB is actively seeking input from the e-business community, the government and the public to help make sure the new code reflects the best practices in e-commerce. The Web site provides an easy-to-use e-mail response system.

BBBOnLine and Better Business Bureaus will host three regional meetings to discuss the new code face-to-face with interested consumers, regulators, trade association leaders and business executives.

The meetings will take place in Denver, on Dec. 1; Palo Alto, CA, on Dec. 2; and Washington, D.C. on Dec. 9.

The proposed code's recommendations:

  • Online businesses shall disclose to their customers and prospective customers, clearly, conspicuously and in easy-to-understand language, accurate information about the business, any goods or services offered through an online transaction and, if applicable, the transaction itself
  • Online businesses shall not engage in deceptive or misleading trade practices with regard to any aspect of electronic commerce, including advertising, marketing, or in their use of technology
  • Online businesses shall adopt information practices that respect the consumer's concerns and treat the information with care. They shall post and adhere to a privacy policy, take appropriate measures to provide adequate security, and respect consumer preferences regarding unsolicited e-mail
  • Online businesses should seek to resolve disputes that are raised by their customers, clients, or licensees in a timely and responsive manner
  • If online businesses target children under the age of 13, they shall take special care to protect them