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9. Electronic commerce

9.1. Canada - Canadian Consumer handbook provides practical user guidance in electronic transactions

The Canadian Consumer Handbook, presented on 16 April 1999 by the Canadian Ministers responsible for Consumer Affairs in both paper and electronic form, contains useful and timely consumer tips on a variety of issues such as privacy, telemarketing, consumer fraud, refund or exchange and electronic commerce. Consumers are informed that the same basic rules of smart shopping apply in the electronic market place. They are encouraged to compare prices and quality before any purchase, to deal with reputable companies, to find out the details of guarantees and warranties, to avoid giving credit card information and to carefully check cellular phone and credit card bills to ensure all transactions are theirs.

The Handbook’s sections on fraud, advance fee scams, contracts, consumer privacy, misleading advertising and multi-level marketing are designed to classify and categorise misleading on line practices. They aim at increasing consumer awareness, which is necessary to recognise "spam scams" and unsolicited commercial e-mail such as "get-rich-quick", "guaranteed loans/credit cards/credit repair", "work-at-home" and "win-a-free" schemes. Practical advice on commercial messages such as "sign now or the price will increase", "you have been specially selected", "you have won", "all we need is your credit card (or bank account) number - for identification only" is also provided. Moreover, consumers are advised to stay away from telemarketers who want to send a courier service for their money, automatically withdraw money from their account, offer free prizes but charge handling and shipping fees or ask for credit card and savings account numbers, social insurance numbers, or other personal information.

The Canadian Consumer Handbook can be accessed athttp://strategis.ic.gc.ca/SSG/ca01137e.html#15

9.2. Luxembourg - Draft electronic commerce bill introduced

At the end of March 1999, the Luxembourg government introduced the country’s draft bill on electronic commerce to Parliament. Composed of 77 articles, this text adapts national civil, commercial and penal law to the electronic environment by also implementing the EU directives 97/66/EC, 97/7/EEC and 93/13/EEC on privacy in telecommunications, distance selling and abusive clauses in consumer contracts. Its declared purpose is to provide Luxembourg with a secure and predictable framework for electronic transactions in accordance with international and European rules by including a set of detailed provisions on proof, electronic contracts, certification authorities, digital certificates and encryption standards.

While it allows the use of cryptography, it recognises the same legal validity in both electronic and hand-written signatures, provided their integrity is adequately guaranteed by digital certificates delivered by accredited certification authorities. The bill sets up a voluntary accreditation system with the National Accreditation and Surveillance Authority of the Ministry of Economy being the public body entrusted with this task. The procedures and criteria of accreditation are defined in three Grand Ducal Regulations to be adopted with the law.

The draft bill can be accessed on the Ministry of Economy web site at  http://www.etat.lu/ECO/

9.3. UK - DTI Consultation Document on electronic commerce policy released

On 11 March 1999, the Department of Trade and Industry issued a consultation document entitled: "Building confidence in electronic commerce". The main purpose of this Consultation Paper (available at http://www.dti.gov.uk/public/frame2.html), which has been prepared jointly by the DTI and the Home Office, is to seek views on the detailed implementation of the government e-commerce policy. This policy has been outlined in the White Paper entitled "Our Competitive Future: Building the Knowledge-Driven Economy", published in December 1998, and the Government’s broader electronic commerce agenda "Net Benefit: the electronic commerce agenda for the UK" (which can be downloaded atwww.dti.gov.uk/cii/ecom.htm).

Topics on which comments were invited include the legal recognition of electronic instruments, the licensing criteria of certification authorities, the liability of service providers towards their customers and third parties, the way the law enforcement provisions will affect licensed providers, unlicensed providers and consumers. Other relevant issues are strategies for the removal of impediments in existing legislation so as to make possible the use of electronic communication instead of paper and the definition of other legislative changes necessary for the promotion of electronic commerce in the country.


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