EU Moves On E-Commerce

The European Union (EU) assembly last week endorsed a proposal drafted by its civil service and executive branch, the European Commission, to regulate and promote e-commerce, including components addressing a range of issues: from cross-border transactions to spam.

The moves come on the heels of a Forrester Amsterdam Research report, released in late April, that called for IT managers to move more quickly to embrace e-commerce solutions.

Jurisdiction Issues Central

A central issue in the proposal involved jurisdiction over issues stemming from cross-border transactions. Although the EU’s ruling, passed May 6 in Strasbourg, France, tends to favor the country-of-origin over the country-of-reception, exemptions will be allowed.

Consumer advocates helped to initiate a proposal allowing e-commerce patrons to utilize laws that exist in their own country, if EU-wide rules do not apply.

Companies selling goods or services online, and across borders, will be regulated by EU generally, however. According to many, including Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and telecommunications interests, this will eliminate concerns that 15 separate sets of national rules and restrictions might impact the growth and embrace of e-commerce in Europe.

Spam & Company

Addressing another major issue, the EU voted for a spam “opt-out” registry, allowing consumers to indicate if they choose not to receive the controversial junk e-mail transmissions. But spam was not voted out altogether. pGroups such as the European Internet Service Provider Association (EuroIspa) are calling for more severe measures, such as an “opt-in” consumer alternative, stipulating delivery on request with regard to junk e-mails.

The voting also approached service providers, expanding their responsibility in copyright violations and libel matters. At the same time, EU sought to protect both ISPs and phone companies against liability issues stemming from the transmission or storage of illegal material.

The endorsed proposals will now be passed along to the EU’s 15 constituent governments for ratification.

Other EU News

The EU has also announced that it has agreed to the terms of Microsoft’s amended contracts with European ISPs regarding its Internet Explorer browser software. There has been concern that Microsoft might sever consumer access to rival browser programs, thus violating EU competition regulations.

Under the terms of the new agreements, Microsoft will not terminate contracts with ISPs that fail to achieve minimum Internet Explorer distribution quotas. The Redmond, Washington-based software giant will also allow European ISPs to make other Internet browser options available to its subscribers.

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