Singapore issues new National E-Commerce Standard to build trust and transparency in online transactions


On 12 June 2020, Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and the Singapore Standards Council (SSC) launched the nation’s first set of practical standards in the form of Technical Reference 76 (TR 76) to provide guidelines for e-commerce transactions. As online retail sales continue to grow in Singapore amidst the Covid-19 outbreak, TR 76 comes at an opportune time to enhance new and existing e-commerce retailers’ internal business processes and increase transparency and trust for consumers, to boost the growth of the e-commerce industry. TR 76 was an industry-wide initiative, with contributions from the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), Singapore Retailers Association (SRA), e-marketplaces including Carousell and Shopee, e-retailer FortyTwo, Nanyang Polytechnic’s Singapore Institute of Retail Studies (NYPSIRS), and payment and logistics service providers.

TR 76 emphasises that the guidelines are ultimately to encourage organisations to create more consumer-friendly operations and customer-centric processes. Businesses are recommended to use TR 76 as a checklist to assess its e-commerce processes and policies, and convey the processes clearly to consumers for easy access. It is ultimately practical guidance, and businesses are still responsible for checking and complying with laws and regulations applicable to them.

TR 76 sets out practical reference for e-retailers and online intermediaries for the full end-to-end e-commerce transaction process.

(1) Pre-purchase activities

  • Content creation:
    • Internally, the content management system used for the e-retailer’s platforms and marketplaces should fulfil statutory and regulatory requirements, streamlines product specifications and information from its contributors (e.g. engineers, merchandisers), and includes appropriate tools to track customer preferences for suitable content.
    • Vis-à-vis its customers, the e-retailers should display its organisational information and contact details on its website, and provide full details on the products and services offered, including functions, safety concerns, age restrictions, regulatory or technical requirements, guarantees and warranties (if any), relevant marketing content (e.g. discounts), condition of item, price of product in applicable currency, shipping restrictions, and so on. Product ratings and reviews are encouraged to allow customers to make informed decisions. E-retailers should also review the transaction related information it communicates.
  • Content delivery: E-retailers should ensure that the content is delivered consistently across all platforms and social media, in a form that is accurate and easy to understand. E-retailers can consider use of communication tools like a toll-free number, chatbot, online chat, etc. Customers should be able to switch to their preferred language on the platform.
  • Content governance: e-retailers should manage and update information on their platforms, such that the customer is able to see the most accurate information at all times, especially on price, stock availability, delivery options, etc. E-retailers are also required to communicate any errors identified as soon as possible, and address customer queries.

(2) Purchase activities

  • Before payment:
    • E-retailers will ensure that information regarding products and services in the shopping cart are listed clearly, including basic information such as: name, description, quantity, availability, price, warranties, applicable taxes, mode of payment, delivery options, fees and estimated delivery date, any recurring charges, free gift entitlements, installation charges, the supplier (for e-marketplaces), account statement used for recurring payments, right to cancel or seek refund, all other fees (e.g. currency conversion or surcharge based on payment method).
    • E-retailers should also provide details of any estimated conversion rates and duration the product is reserved prior to being purchased. Information entered for items reserved should be saved, such that the customer need not re-enter all existing information by making any changes during the purchase process. There are clear requirements on the information that should be listed at the check-out page.
  • Payment: E-retailers are required to comply with requirements on payment modes and confirmation, order confirmation, payment security and verification measures. E-retailers should ensure billing processes comply with data protection regulations, and there are measures in place to identify fraudulent transactions. E-retailers are encouraged to adopt ISO/IEC 27001 “Information security management” to address other security features.

(3) Post purchase activities (including customer support)

  • E-retailers should be able to track completion of the payment process, and have strategies to deal with any risk or failure to settle payments, product or service unavailability, product defects and withdrawals, and comply with guidelines on delivery and fulfilment of orders, tracking of products, returns, refunds and exchange.
  • Customer support: E-retailers should offer appropriate and effective communication and customer support, that is easily accessible online and with responses provided promptly. E-retailers should also set up and communicate clear feedback and complaints handling processes.

(4) Merchant verification

  • There is a detailed list of information required by e-retailers to collect from its merchants for verification. After the initial collection, the e-retailer should set up monitoring systems to help identify bad actors (e.g. fraudulent merchants). Examples of data points that can be collected include: order defect rate, order processing speed, in-stock rate, spikes in activities above thresholds, unusual cross-border activities, etc.

While TR 76 will normally have to be purchased from the Singapore Standards eShop, it can be viewed without charge for a limited period of time, as part of ESG’s efforts to support businesses during this challenging Covid-19 period at: