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Singapore launches safety rating scheme for e-commerce sites

Singapore has launched a rating scheme that assesses e-commerce marketplaces based on their anti-scam measures. Its technical guidelines for online transactions also have been updated to offer more details on safeguarding against scams.

The E-commerce Marketplace Transaction Safety Ratings (TSR) aimed to evaluate the extent to which these platforms had implemented anti-scam measures that ensured, amongst others, user authenticity, transaction safety, and availability of loss remediation channels for consumers. 

For instance, e-commerce marketplaces would be assessed on whether they had measures in place to verify sellers’ identity and were continuously monitoring for fraudulent seller behaviour. The platforms also would be rated against the use of secure payment tools for transactions as well as the availability of dispute reporting and resolution mechanisms.

The information served to alert users on the safety of transacting with these online sites, said the Ministry of Home Affairs and Singapore Standards Council in a joint statement Saturday. The ratings covered “major e-commerce marketplaces” that facilitated transactions between multiple sellers and buyers, with “significant” local reach or a significant number of reported e-commerce scams. 

The lowest rating clocks at one tick, while the scale tips at four ticks. E-commerce marketplaces with all critical anti-scam measures in place were awarded the highest four-ticks rating, according to the ministry. 

TSR ratings are reviewed every year.  The current list has given Facebook Marketplace the lowest rating of one tick, while Carousell has two ticks, Shopee has three, and Qoo10 has four ticks alongside Amazon and Lazada.

To further enhance anti-scam protection, the national standard for e-commerce transactions also have been updated to include additional guidelines for online retailers and marketplaces. 

The latest Technical Reference 76, which was first released in June 2020, encompassed best practices to secure different areas of online transactions, spanning pre-, during- and post-purchase activities, customer support, and merchant verification. 

E-marketplaces, for example, should look at implementing pre-emptive safeguards against fraudulent merchants on their platforms, such as activating early warning mechanisms when non-verified devices were used to access the account. Merchants deemed to be of fraud risk also should be blacklisted on the marketplace, restricting their activities on the platform or raising the customer’s awareness of the risks involved.

“The [TR76] intent is to better enable merchant authenticity, improve transaction security, and aid enforcement against e-commerce scams,” said Ministry of Home Affairs and Singapore Standards Council, adding that the additional guidelines were part of the safety features rated in the TSR. “Generally, e-commerce marketplaces that adopt TR76 guidelines would score better on the TSR.”

Singapore in the last couple of years has intensified its efforts in improving underlying infrastructures that it believes will pave the way for the country to become a global and regional e-commerce hub. The country’s “five-pronged” strategy to do so includes building out the local 5G networks, supply chain capabilities, and payment platforms

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in February said it was working on a liability framework that detailed how losses from online scams would be shared amongst key parties in the ecosystem, stressing that victims of such scams should not assume they would be able to recover their losses. This framework would operate on the basis that all parties had responsibilities to be vigilant and take precautions against scams, MAS said. 

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