The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released Consumer Policy Guidance on Intangible Digital Content Products (Guidance) for protecting online consumers of digital content.

With the expansion of the Internet and mobile devices, digital content has grown considerably. The OECD recognizes that this has brought consumers considerable benefits, “including ready access to a wide range of high-quality products, often at reduced costs”. It has also created issues that the OECD believes “countries and business now need to address”.

According to the Guidance, consumers acquiring and using intangible digital content products face several challenges, including, among others: inadequate information disclosure, and misleading or unfair commercial practices.

The Guidance provides recommendations to address six issues concerning:

  • Digital content product access and usage conditions
  • Privacy and security
  • Fraudulent, misleading and unfair commercial practices
  • Children
  • Dispute resolution and redress
  • Digital competence

The recommendations include provisions relating to privacy and security, and address fraudulent, misleading and unfair commercial practices. In particular, the OECD suggests that terms and conditions should be made available to consumers as early as possible in the transaction, and that consumers be provided with clear information about the collection, storage and use of their personal data, including steps consumers can take to manage their data.

In addition, the Guidance addresses children’s advertising and recommends that businesses have mechanisms in place to prevent children from making in-app or digital content purchases without parental consent.

The OECD has also called for effective dispute resolution and redress mechanisms.

Given the growth in the digital market in which businesses now operate, this Guidance calls for governments, businesses and other stakeholders to work collectively to develop education and awareness programs to facilitate consumer use of digital content. Importantly, the OECD acknowledges that protection of consumers and of their personal data should form the core of any legal framework, and should be read in conjunction with the OECD’s Privacy Principles, which tend to form the basis of the data protection and privacy laws in nearly 140 countries.