EU Regulation of E-Commerce under the E-Commerce Directive

The EU Commission has stated it believes that between 2001 and 2003, the number of people engaged in business online will have trebled and the number of transactions to buy and sell goods and/or services over the Internet will have multiplied by twenty. The UK’s Department of Trade and Industry estimates that the e-commerce industry is worth in excess of £57 billion in the UK alone. One of the difficulties experienced by businesses that wish to conduct e-commerce is the increasing need to know not just about the legal requirements of their own jurisdiction, but also the legal requirements of those jurisdictions where their customers are located. Whilst for consumers one of the biggest hurdles is the continued lack of trust and confidence in the Internet as a means of purchasing goods and services. 

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EU Regulation of Distance Selling

In order to encourage consumer confidence in buying goods and services over the Internet the EU has adopted Directive EC 97/7 on the protection of consumers in respect to distance contracts (the “Distance Selling Directive”). In the UK, the Distance Selling Directive has been implemented by The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 (“the Regulations”). The Distance Selling Directive provides an agreed minimum level of consumer protection throughout the EU, requiring businesses to provide certain information to consumers before and after ordering goods and services at a distance such as over the Internet or by phone providing consumers with rights of withdrawal and regulating certain marketing methods. 

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EU Regulation of Distance Marketing of Financial Services

The Directive regarding the distance marketing of consumer financial services is an essential part of the Commission’s strategy to develop an internal market for retail financial services. The strategy, as set out in the Commission’s Communication on E-Commerce and Financial Services, is part of the Financial Services Action Plan. This sets out the Commission’s wider goal of creating a fully integrated European market in financial services by 2005 to complement the introduction of the euro. The aim of the Directive is to harmonise Member States’ rules on the distance marketing of consumer financial services, thereby raising the level of consumer protection whilst enabling service providers to market their services across the EU without unnecessary obstacles.

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EU Data Protection Directive – London

On 23 September 1980, the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development adopted a set of guidelines concerning data protection and transborder data flows. Following on from those guidelines, the EU enacted the Convention for the Protection of Individuals With Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (the “Convention”) in 1981. Within the EU, Member States had divergent laws on data protection and the EU took the view that it would be better to harmonise the laws of all Member States so that people could look to one standard when conducting Processing activity within the EU. At least, that was one of the aspirations. In 1995, after years of discussion the European Data Protection Directive 95/46 EC (the “Directive”) was eventually adopted.

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EU and UK Regulation of Linking, Framing and Metatags

Businesses which use their own websites to carry on ecommerce need to be aware of the intellectual property rights which can be used to protect the contents and the investment made in their websites. In particular, businesses need to be aware of the intellectual property issues surrounding certain Internet practices, namely linking, framing and the use of metatags.

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The Data Protection Act of 1998

The Data Protection Act 1998 (the “DPA”), which implements the European Data Protection Directive 95/46 EC (the “Directive”), came into force on 1 March 2000. The DPA allowed for two periods of transition, the first of which ended on 24 October 2001. The second transitional period ends on 23 October 2007, but only applies in limited circumstances to eligible manual data held immediately before 24 October 1998. Most businesses which are Processing data in the UK will now need to comply with the provisions of the DPA.  

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UK Regulation of Online Financial Promotion

This paper will deal with the application of:

  • section 21 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (the “FSMA“);
  • the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Financial Promotion) Order 2001 (the “Financial Promotion Order“) and amendments thereto; and
  • the financial promotion rules in the Conduct of Business Sourcebook (“COBS“).

This paper is intended to give an overview of the main aspects of the above rules and how they apply to online financial promotions.

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