At the United Nations' Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Consumer Protection/ Competition Law and Policy on 10 July 2019, it was announced that an initial round of $2.5 million in funding has been successfully secured for a new UNCTAD programme. The research programme was proposed and will be led by Dr Ying Yu and collaborators Dr Alex Chung and Dr Janet Hui Xue, titled: ‘Trust building in digital economy by delivering justice to cosmopolitan-consumer-citizens (CCC) using blockchain technologies’. Two developing countries will be selected by UNCTAD to be explored as case studies for the project's pilot phase.
The multi-year programme has received the support and backing of UNCTAD Secretary-General Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, who stated at the Annual Meeting:
Building trust among digital consumers – and securing innovative solutions to protect them – is critical for ensuring developing countries gain from cross-border e-trade
At the heart of the new research programme is the concept of CCC, introduced by Dr Yu. She commented:
"Everyone is a consumer in the contemporary society and in a digital economy. Yet, despite the high prevalence of disputes an average consumer faces, the provision for effective resolution is severely inadequate. This poses a number of challenges for policymakers in protecting the CCC. When something goes wrong and consumers seek help, they are frustrated by unfamiliar procedures which are costly, time-consuming, and stressful. These procedures are often so ill-designed and cumbersome that they deter consumers from conducting cross-border transactions.
A lack of trust is one of the biggest barriers hindering the development of a digital economy. Creating conditions for trust to thrive in order to boost consumers’ confidence is the key to developing cross-border activities for consumers and the market. This is especially true in the digital economy, where no trust means no business."
Dr Yu is Research Fellow of Law, Justice and Society at the University Oxford. She leads the 'Best Practices of Consumer Redress' project in UNCTAD's Research Partnerships Platform and the Consumer Rights Beyond Boundaries (CRBB) programme. Dr Chung is a Research Associate collaborating on the Digital Economy and Society programme, and Dr Xue leads the ‘Legal and Regulatory Challenges of the Sharing Economy’ project in the CRBB programme.