The European parliament this week adopted the European Union’s electronic commerce directive setting out a clear legal framework to be written into the national law of each EU member country within 18 months.
Electronic commerce is worth $15.5bn in Europe and is expected to grow to $310bn by 2003.
The directive means that web traders can offer goods and services anywhere in the EU as long as they comply with the rules of their home country.
It contains rules on electronic contracts, the information a trader must give a customer, what advertising e-mails must say about the sender, discounts and other promotions, as well as the limits on the liability of intermediaries for unlawful material on their web sites. It defines the place of establishment of a web trader and the relevant supervision that is applicable to a web site.
The commission will vet national legislation on all aspects of e-commerce to ensure that it was compatible with rules passed in other countries.
It is believed that the landmark decision will pave the way for agreement on other EU initiatives on e-commerce, such as copyright rules, distance marketing of financial services and revision of the Brussels convention on contractual law.