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Industry pushes for electronic payments

With the e-commerce law hoped to be passed before the end of the year, industry experts said it is important for Cambodian businesses to begin to encourage e-commerce activity, with an emphasis on electronic payments systems.

“My understanding is that [the e-commerce law] is largely about the validity of electronic contracts and electronic signatures, which is a great step,” said Chris McCarthy, co-chair of eBusiness Working Group, at a panel discussion on e-commerce yesterday.

The next logical step after the e-commerce law is eventually passed would be to instill consumer and merchant trust in using online payment options, he added.

He added that if the numerous businesses that offer cash-on-delivery begin to instead offer electronic payments to increase awareness, sales revenue could increase by 30 per cent.

“I think one of the big challenges that were identified [among industry leaders] is trust and awareness,” McCarthy said.

“Trust for consumers to know that if they order something online they will receive it and awareness in knowing that there are e-payments.”

McCarthy said that the numbers are growing rapidly and that Cambodia’s entire GDP of $10 billion could eventually be accounted for electronically.

“[For example] 15 years ago in China, nobody would spend any money online, they didn’t trust it. And 15 years later they now spend $500 billion a year online so I think there is a way [for Cambodia to also] make that transition,” he said.

Mike Gaertner, chief executive officer of Sabay Digital Corp, said the transition has been stifled by Cambodian preferences for convenience and comfort rather than by issues of trust.

“The premise of e-commerce in the Western world is that it’s cheaper, easy to do and it saves time,” he said.

“I don’t necessarily think those premises hold true in Cambodia. For most Cambodians, it is not necessarily cheaper to order online if they can find the product in a local market for cheaper.”

He said that because of smart phones, his website switched from 10 per cent mobile to 80 per cent mobile, as opposed to desktop, in three years, and that the transition to e-commerce has potential to happen just as quickly with a similar catalyst.

Steven Path, president of ICT Federation, believes that one way to encourage e-payment is to convert cash-on-delivery (COD) options to e-payment options.

“As long as [merchants] are offering COD, the consumer will obviously select COD but if [merchants] were to stop COD, e-payment would definitely accelerate,” he said.

He estimated that Cambodia’s digital economy is currently worth $800 million.

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