Electronic Commerce

Jane Lambert
27 May 2010

“Electronic” or “e-commerce” refers to transactions for the supply of goods or services over the internet or other electronic networks. E-commerce transactions differ from others in that the parties are often in different jurisdictions, the transactions are at least partially automated and there need be no paper record. Accordingly electronic commerce has given rise to jurisdiction, authentication and consumer protection issues which required legislation at international, European and national level.

In the UK these issues have been addressed by the Electronics Communications Act 2000 and by The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000, The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 and the Provision of Services Regulations 2009.

Electronic Communications Act 2000
So far  as e-commerce is concerned the main provisions of the Act are those giving effect to electronic signatures and dispensing with the need for paper records. S. 7 (2) of the Act defines an “electronic signature” as “so much of anything in electronic form as—

“(a) is incorporated into or otherwise logically associated with any electronic communication or electronic data; and

(b) purports to be so incorporated or associated for the purpose of being used in establishing the authenticity of the communication or data, the integrity of the communication or data, or both.”

S. 7 (1) provides that an electronic signature or the certification of such a signature shall be admissible in evidence in legal proceedings in relation to any question as to the authenticity of the communication or data or as to the integrity of the communication or data.  S.8 enables a minister to amend legislation by statutory instrument to authorize or facilitate the use of electronic communications or electronic storage.

Distance Selling Regulations
The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 implement most of the provisions of Directive 97/7/EC (The Distance Selling Directive).

Electronic Commerce Regulations
The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 implement the main provisions of Directive 2000/31/EC (the Electronic Commerce Directive).

Provision of Services
The Provision of Services Regulations 2009 which came into force on 28 Dec 2009 implement the Services Directive (Directive 2006/123/EC). These require service providers to state their business name, status and form, their business and email address, details of authorization schemes, contract terms, price or other terms, professional indemnity insurance and other details.

Other Provisions
It is important to note that e-commerce gives rise to tax, privacy and general contractual issues which are addressed on other pages of this website.