The substantial development in information technology and the great proliferation of
computers have contributed to the expansion of internet and dissemination of the culture of
dealing on line. Therefore, the network has become a virtual space wherein commodities are
sold and bought, auctions are held and services are provided. So it deserved to be really
considered a market which collects the parties to the mutual agreements, and where
business exchanges, auctions, supply and demand take place.
Getting daily needs, whether a commodity or service, via the internet, has become a normal
thing nowadays, since we can get any commodity or order any service from anywhere in the
However, despite all those numerous advantages which are provided to consumers by the
information network, such as saving time and money for consumers and offering them the
freedom of choice, the internet still has some drawbacks. The consumer is unable to inspect
the goods and be fully aware of the supplier's identity, to mention a few. This resulted from
the fact that the consumer is the weak party against the supplier who has experience and
The consumer in the scope of E-commerce is the same consumer in the traditional
contracting process, but it is just that in the first instance, the consumer deals through E-
media, since he/ she has all rights and benefits offered in traditional commerce, along with
taking into account the privacy one can find when the contract is concluded electronically.
Accordingly, the issue of consumer protection is not new concept, as there are many
countries which have paid attention to this issue, through issuance of various legislations
focusing on protecting consumers, making them aware and enlightening their knowledge
before proceeding to enter into contracts, for the purpose of protecting them by trade
association, such as the Consumer Protection Act which was issued by the Royal Decree No.
81/2002. Associations which aim at protecting consumers such as Oman Association for
Consumer Protection were established. They are civil non-profit associations which adopt
some means in defending consumers. Some of the most important of which are spreading
awareness, counter advertising, wise purchasing and wise payment.
We find in the information technology field that the need for consumer protection becomes
more important, since confidence in E-market is one of the first things required by the
consumer to meet his own needs, where legal protection of consumer, whether pre-
contracting, upon conclusion of the E-contract or at the time of executing the contract
electronically, is deemed very important because a consumer should feel confidence and
safety before execution of any transaction. This will in turn contribute substantially to the E-
commerce boom and growth. One of the most important things required by a consumer in
this point is to be protected from E-commercial advertisements and provided with
information and enlightenment. Below is explanation of these two points:
First: protecting consumers from E-commercial advertisements
Advertising in general is merely an act or action which aims at applying psychological effect
to consumers, for the purpose of convincing them of the advantages of a commodity or
service and the benefits it may bring, notwithstanding of the means which is used in doing
so, whether electronic or traditional. This may be positive and may require negotiation or
contracting, where if an advertisement includes the essential and main requirements of
contracting, i.e. if the offering of commodities and services, via the internet, includes the
price of the sold item, this offering shall be considered positive and if it doesn't include the
essential requirements of contracting, such as the prices of commodities and services, it
shall require negotiation or contracting. Should the E-commercial advertisement includes
false or misleading information which makes a consumer commit fault, it shall be deemed a
crime punishable whenever criminal intention exists.
Protecting consumers against electronic advertisements is based on two essential rules; the
first of which is related to making it a requirement that electronic advertisement is clear,
through providing consumers with correct and clear information about the product or
service, which allows a consumer to take his decision to wisely accept or refuse. The second
rule, as identified by some jurisprudents, advertising which deceives/ may deceive
consumer. This is related to prevention and bringing the sender of the misleading electronic
advertisements under law control.
Second: Consumer's Right to be knowledgeable and Enlighted
Before a consumer concludes any contract electronically, there are information which
should be provided by the service provider or supplier to the consumer, which is called being
adherence to enlightenment before execution of a transaction. This information relates to
the supplier's character from one had and the product or service from the other hand.
In conclusion, there is very close relationship between providing protection to consumers
from one hand and boom & growth of E-commerce on the other hand. Accordingly,
countries should expedite the review of their legislation on consumer protection and make
the necessary updates commensurate with protecting privacy while dealing with E-market.
Dr. Hussein Ben Said Al Ghaferi
Department of Information Technology