Starting an E-Commerce Website in Trinidad & Tobago, Part 2
In the Part 1 of this article I talked about the 2 kinds of E-Commerce websites- the shopping cart service from a third party provider where you pay a monthly fee, or the pre-designed website that’s enabled for E-Commerce.
One way they differ is that the shopping cart service fee is the cost of having the website online for visitors to access and use its functions (essentially the website cost plus hosting in one) while the pre-designed website is a one time cost for the theme (template) for which the site owner just pays his hosting company to keep it online. In a Trini ‘nutshell’ both allow the visitor to browse products and ‘add to cart’ regardless of how it was paid for to be on the web.
The way that they’re the same is that both require a third party to process the online payments when vistors are ready to checkout, i.e. acquire credit card info, authenticate and complete the transaction (for a processing fee, usually a % of the order) which then generates the sales order to be fulfilled.
If someone in Trinidad & Tobago wants such a site the only issue would be the payment processing as setting up a site that lets vistors ‘add to cart’ is not a problem and in fact very easy. The issues arise when the visitor has to pay. Leaving aside the fact that Trinis are very wary, sometimes paranoid, about using their credit cards online, who is going to obtain and authenticate their credit card info, take their fee and then transfer the payment to the site-owner’s bank account? The answer is no one in Trinidad & Tobago.
There are no payment processors in the country because there was no legislation enacted to govern online financial transactions until April this year when the Electronic Transaction Bill 2011 was passed in the Senate.
The Electronic Transaction Bill 2011
In simple terms the The Bill seeks to provide for the transfer of information and records by electronic means. Specifically, the Bill sets out the application requirements for registration as an accredited Electronic Authentication Service Provider and empowers the minister to recognize accredited electronic authentication products which are issued outside Trinidad and Tobago.
It also sets out the liability of an Electronic Authentication Service Provider for damages or loss caused to anyone relying on an accredited electronic authentication product where the damage or loss is due to the Provider not meeting certain requirements as laid out in the bills various clauses.
Again in a ‘nutshell’ the part that Trini shoppers would care about is that the Provider “use trustworthy systems and products that are protected against modification and that ensure technical and cryptographic security…and… take measures against forgery of a qualified electronic authentication product and, where applicable, guarantee full confidentiality during the process of generating signature creation data…”
The Bill also lays out specific minimum information that the seller must provide for E-Commerce to establish himself as a bonafide seller and specifies the terms of establishing an electronic contract including terms, conditions and methods of payment, the details of, and conditions and policies related to, privacy, withdrawal, termination, return, exchange, cancellation and refunds etc. All in all it’s substantial and comprehensive consumer protection for Trinis shopping online from local E-Commerce websites.
HOW THIS AFFECTS LOCAL E-COMMERCE
In the short term it doesn’t, as it will take a while before local Electronic Authentication Service Providers are established under the terms of the Bill. This means that anyone locally who wants to sell online will have to depend on, as they always had before the Bill, third party US based payment processors like the popular 2Checkout or PayPal and others.
Of course there is the tried and true payment method of having shoppers deposit directly into bank accounts but that technically isn’t E-Commerce is it?
This Part 2 is longer than I planned for as I really wanted to explain the main provisions in the Bill. I know everyone wants to know how to go about setting up with a payment processor but that will take another article. I promise it will follow this one really soon, even faster if I receive your feedback on both articles so far so I’ll know how to frame it better. So until then, this is Part 2 and, with apologies, stay tuned for Part 3.