Nicaragua - Country Commercial Guide
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Nicaragua has below average access to the internet and below average rates of eCommerce.  According to the World Bank, 57 percent of Nicaraguans used the internet in 2021, compared to a Latin American average of 76 percent. Most Nicaraguans access the internet through mobile data plans.  According to the World Bank, Nicaragua had 97 mobile-phone subscriptions per 100 people, compared to a Latin American average of 108.  The Nicaraguan government can disrupt internet service at any time.  During the 2018 protests, the government disrupted internet service in some cities. 

Nicaraguan authorities may electronically monitor individuals’ activities.  Under Nicaragua’s 2020 Cybercrimes Law, a local judge may issue an order, at the National Police or Prosecutor General’s request, to force internet providers to release specific information about an individual customer, as well as collect, extract, or record data about this customer, such as real time data traffic. 

CAFTA-DR’s Electronic Commerce chapter requires nondiscriminatory, duty free treatment of digital products and encourages cooperation in numerous policy areas related to electronic commerce.  However, electronic commerce is still developing in Nicaragua and there are no laws or regulations restricting its use.  All eCommerce businesses must be incorporated with a physical address in the country.

The Digital Signature Law extends legal validity to electronic signatures and digital certificates to facilitate business and government transactions, especially international transactions.  The governing body for the accreditation of an electronic signature is the Director General of Technology, which is part of the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit.  There is no indication, however, that the system necessary to accredit electronic signatures has been implemented. 

Assessment of Current Buyer Behavior in Market

Nicaraguans are increasingly comfortable with online and app-based shopping, though overall rates of eCommerce remain lower than the regional average.   According to the Nicaraguan Central Bank, Nicaraguans completed roughly 56 million transactions in the fourth quarter of 2022, including credit card payments, mobile wallet transactions, local international wire transfers, and check payments, totaling $23 billion.  Debit cards accounted for 32 million transactions, 57 percent of the total. At least four private banks in the country offer digital payment methods designed mostly for medium- to large-sized businesses. 

Nicaragua has no legal framework regulating online transactions.  While the few businesses offering online transactions generally have reliable security measures, there are no public incentives to conduct online sales and little public awareness or training available.  Aside from the business elite, online shopping has not taken hold in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua’s commercial banking system is conservative and highly concentrated, restricting electronic transaction options.  According to online marketing experts, commercial banks ask for up to $10,000 in security deposits to guarantee online transactions.  Some entrepreneurs use Pay-Pal and other foreign payment systems to avoid high transactions costs, but these systems are not integrated into Nicaraguan banks.  App-based delivery platforms, particularly Pedidos Ya, have grown significantly, especially in the capital of Managua.

The relatively low purchasing power of the Nicaraguan consumer makes it difficult for many to obtain credit or debit cards for online purchases.  Popular app-based delivery services also allow payments in cash.  According to the World Bank’s global financial inclusion database (Global Findex), only 23 percent of adults in Nicaragua had access to financial services in 2021, down from 28 percent in 2017.