A cyber-consumer protection framework for prevention of online deceptive advertising

Advertising Internet Australia

Abstract: Online deceptive advertisements engender distrust among cyber-consumers, leaving many negative physical and emotional effects and financial losses; we find that such incidents occur in every country in the world. This research addressed issues with online fraud and deceptive advertising related to cyber-consumer transactions (CCT) and consumer protection, whether local or international. The focus of this study was to propose a means of protecting the cyber- consumer from online fraud and deceptive advertising before and after losses through the Cyber Consumer Protection Framework (the framework) developed from this thesis. This framework provides potential solutions and redress methods in order to minimise online fraud and deception as well as protecting the cyber-consumer when making an online transaction whether locally or internationally. The framework offers a set of redress methods and approaches to prevent online fraudulent behaviour to protect cyber-consumers. This framework is developed based on the analysis of cognitive processes and the behavioural studies of advertisers and consumers. These provide a foundation for examining how advertisements provide information that attracts consumers and how consumers interpret advertised messages. We then determine the characteristics of advertisements for products or brands, and then provide guidelines about the advertising qualities and how these exhibit significant differences in their impact on consumer behaviour. The research has provided a tool for consumers to analyse the advertiser’s interests and to pin-point fraudulent or embedded hidden agenda. The outcome of this thesis is a proposed cyber-consumer protection framework which incorporates a set of approaches for the protection of cyber-consumers. These approaches include an online federated consumer protection portal with strengthened crime detection features, updated consumer protection policies, law enforcement methods for the cyber environment to deal with online deceptive advertising and cyber crimes, thereby helping the consumer to prevent losses and possibly recover damages.

This thesis gives a clear explanation of ‘deceptive advertising’ and provides detailed examples to illustrate its impact on consumers. We provide cognitive processes analysis and behavioural studies, and provide a Cyber Consumer Protection Framework to prevent deceptive advertising. Much existing work to date has provided some guidelines for consumers on what not to do. However, deceptive advertising and fraudulent activities continue to intensify due to the fact that there are no strong cyber-based legal frameworks for making vendors accountable for fraudulent and deceptive online activities. In Australia, we found that the legislation for consumer protection is not detailed enough to protect the cyber-consumer. Further, local policies such as those of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have no guidelines on how to deal with online fraud that involves fraud from other jurisdictions, because the jurisdiction for policies are only ‘local’, not international or across states. These weaknesses have encouraged more and more fraud and deception in products and services as well as misleading information in the online market. Therefore, this thesis also proposes solutions for cyber-consumers in terms of what they can do after being deceived, how to avoid being deceived, and how to deal with false and misleading advertisements through our Cyber Consumer Protection Framework and approaches to prevent financial losses and psychological harm.

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