While they signal an important
change in strategy and a willingness to raise tariffs, there is more
to be done. The government is attempting to improve the country’s
external position through import
restrictions, establishing barriers
to dividend repatriation and implementing a requirement that energy
companies cash in export revenues
through the Central Bank.
President Cristina Fernández de
Kirchner has blamed oil companies
for the lack of energy investment
and the energy trade deficit, which
reached almost $3 billion in 2011.
Environmental issues are another
concern. To extract shale gas, millions of gallons of water and chemicals must be injected into wells.
Critics say this process, known as
fracking, produces groundwater
contamination and seismic risks.
While geological factors and better
technologies reduce the chances of
contamination in Argentina, water
usage in arid areas is a concern.
Shale gas development is an opportunity too great to dismiss. It
could solve Argentina’s energy trade
deficit and reduce gas dependence
on Bolivia. Its potential for improving the overall trade balance should
convince the administration to offer further production incentives.
Francisco Resnicoff is a senior
specialist and Gabi Huesca is
a junior consultant at Cefeidas
Group in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
E-COMMERCE REGULATION IN BRAZIL
RENATO OPICE BLUM AND PAULO SÁ ELIAS
Brazil is a major participant in the global growth in e-com- merce. In 2011, 32 million
Brazilians made an online purchase—a 39-percent jump from a
year earlier, accounting for approximately $19 billion in online sales
and elevating it to seventh place in
worldwide online sales.
By 2015, Brazil is projected to
rise to fourth place, following only
China, the U.S. and Japan.
The demographics of Brazil’s online purchasers explain why this
is not surprising. Internet access is
on the rise, with 77. 8 million Brazilians online in the second quarter of
2011—a 20-percent jump in just two
years. Among those who are active
online and over 15 years old, 86 percent access shopping websites on
their home or business computer.
The global average is 72 percent.
But these figures tell only part of
the story. As in many sectors across
Brazil, much of the consumption
growth is fueled by a larger middle
class. In the first half of 2011, mid-
dle-class customers accounted for
61 percent of new online shoppers.
The rise also stems from Brazil’s credit boom. Middle-class consumers can now use credit cards to
make online purchases.
The rapid growth in e-commerce,
particularly among first-time, middle-class consumers is also leading to a rise in complaints against
online retailers, which spiked by
nearly 200 percent from 2010 to 2011
in the state of Rio de Janeiro alone.
The most common grievance is that
the product either does not arrive
or is delivered with defects.
This raises regulatory issues
around how to protect consumers
against abusive practices. One of
the top concerns is ensuring that
only the person engaging in a transaction and the seller of the product
or service have access to information shared during the purchase.
The Brazilian congress is trying
to keep pace with the rise in e-com-
merce. Bills pending in congress
would provide greater certainty for
e-commerce and update the land-
mark Consumer Protection Code
(CDC) established in 1991. They in-
clude: establishing mechanisms
for consumer e-commerce protec-
tion; regulating electronic sales of
products and services; establish-
ing criteria for the operation of web
operating companies; and requir-
ing businesses to display their cor-
porate name, address and taxpayer
identification number online.
Renato Opice Blum is partner and
CEO at Opice Blum law and leads
the FGV digital law course. Paulo
Sá Elias is a partner at Opice Blum.
151 Americas Quarterly SPRING 2012