EU Approves E-Commerce Policy

9 December 1999
The long awaited adoption of a concrete e-commerce policy in Europe came Tuesday as the European Union approved a law that establishes a framework for e-commerce to be followed by the 15 EU nations. Under the legislation, a company would be subject to the laws of its originating country (the "country of origin" principle).

The law includes additional provisions:

  • Internet Service Providers (ISP) will not be liable for third party content transmitted over their network, so long as they don't initiate the transmission, change the information or select the recipient.
  • By registering their name on a list, consumers will not receive junk e-mail. ISPs will be required to periodically check the list for changes.
  • Site operators will need to supply required information about themselves and where they are established.
  • The legality of online contracts has also been provided for through the law, as well as methods of handling related disputes.
  • EU member countries will be able to block foreign Internet commerce that is deemed a threat to public interest, health or security, or in an effort to protect consumers and investors.

The next steps in the legislative process are expected to be completed soon. First, the legal text needs to be checked over by EU member legal experts before EU ministers can formally adopt the proposal, plus the European Parliament needs to add their opinion.

"The Council has just reached political agreement on the electronic commerce directive. There will now be a more clear legal framework for the shopping mall of the future," said Erkki Virtanen, Finland's state secretary for trade and industry. "Its importance cannot be overstated

Virtanen said that the law's passage could take place within a few weeks. EU countries will then have 18 months to get the law through their own national parliaments.