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Govt Eyes Tighter Regulation Of E-Commerce With Eye To Increased Revenue

Source: Vientiane Times

The government is looking at ways to derive more financial benefit from e-commerce, hoping to better manage and develop this form of business in order to earn more revenue.

Online trade in Laos, the region and the rest of the world is booming but the management of and earnings from this type of commerce have not been efficient or profitable, the Minister of Industry and Commerce, Mr Malaythong Kommasith, told National Assembly members last week.  

The ministry has instructed businesses to inform authorities about their online operations, but most keep their activities hidden and operate independently of government regulation. 

Another issue is that many people have bought goods after seeing items advertised online but have received unsatisfactory service and have no legitimate recourse to compensation or justice, Mr Malaythong said.

“The management, monitoring and promotion of online businesses is new for the ministry. If we want things to operate efficiently, we require strong cooperation from every government sector involved,” he added.      

To remedy the situation, the ministry will formulate an e-commerce strategy, a development plan and legislation to regulate online businesses, as well as facilitate their operations. 

The ministry plans to set up a coordinating office and build the capacity of staff in relevant government bodies to ensure that online businesses comply with the regulations.       

E-commerce operators will be required to register their operations and agree to comply with the government’s regulations in this regard, while consumers will be informed of their rights under the law, and warned about the risks they run.  

The ministry will also set up a system to resolve disputes involving online businesses, including use of the hotline number 1510 for consumers to register complaints.

In addition, the ministry will create a database or online registration system that businesses must use to register their operations, and will consider setting up an association to regulate e-commerce to ensure that businesses comply with the law.

There are also plans to set up 20 e-commerce centres around the country to provide online businesses operators with access to the database.

The ministry is working with Chinese authorities to create the database, which is expected to be complete in June.

Investment in e-commerce will be encouraged through the construction of warehouses to store goods at suitable locations along the Laos-China Railway, so that goods can be shipped by rail.

This year, the value of goods traded online in Laos hit US$683 million.

The business is expected to grow at an annual rate of 17.27 percent, increasing to US$1,500 million by 2027.

Most of this trade is transacted with China, and it is expected that the number of people trading online will rise to 3.4 million.

The government is hopeful that online trade between Laos and China will increase significantly, bolstered by use of the Laos-China Railway.

To further benefit from online trade, the government will step up cooperation with the Chinese government to improve the skills of staff in managing and fostering the development of online businesses in Laos.