EU-US agreements on e-commerce [Archives:2003/683/Education]

November 6 2003

By Najeeb Yahya
NCC Education – Yemen

In order to know if there is any E-commerce agreement between Europe and the USA and if there is any agreement about Court and Law applicable to Contracts in Internet between them or between any countries in the world, we can say that there is no general agreement between Europe and the USA in the area of E-commerce and likewise there is no specific agreement between the EU and the USA on Jurisdiction and Applicable law in civil matters (and thus also covering the electronic contracts).

The EU and USA work closely together in the area of e-commerce and in particular in the framework of WTO and OECD.
In the specific area of Data Protection there is a bilateral agreement between the EU and the USA called Safe Harbour.
The question related to the jurisdiction and applicable law is decided in principal according to the International Private Law.
In order to find out how the global jurisdiction questions are being considered in the USA you might find the following web-site useful:
EU – US relations concerning consumer questions in the area of e-commerce are mainly treated in the scope of bilateral Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) and, in larger perspective, within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). More information on different aspects TACD and EU-US collaboration can be found from the homepage of the European Commission Health and Consumer Protection Directorate General

E-commerce challenges for auditors
Auditors of today are challenged to build into their audit plans and programs the necessary controls to manage and mitigate the risks introduced by rapidly changing technologies.
Auditor auditing e-commerce activities should have knowledge at least in the following issues related directly to the e-commerce environment:
• technologies needed for e-business
• special risks in e-business
• cryptography for confidentiality and authentication
• understanding public key infrastructures (PKI)
• digital signatures
• certificates and certifying authorities
• e-business applications controls
• the e-business application development cycle
• auditing an e-business implementation
• living with the added risk of e-business
Technology will soon enable automatic audits. Computer generated audits are becoming the norm and a more efficient audit includes less interruption of a client’s business, less paper consumption and less time spent in redeveloping working papers. Businesses and investors are most interested in real-time data – for audits to be effective they must evolve to meet this market demand.
Several auditing companies provide today e-commerce-focused services and there are also lots of seminars and other types of training sessions available for auditors wanting to specialise in e-commerce. You can even do online courses on auditing. Local business communities are often very good sources of information concerning specialised business related training.

E-commerce and proper law of contract
E-commerce has influenced contract law a great deal so far. Of course national contract laws initially had no provisions on questions related to e-commerce (e.g., Is it possible at all to conclude a contract electronically? Is it possible to sign a contract with an electronic signature? When is the contract deemed to be concluded? What kind of information needs to be given before the conclusion of a contract etc?)
Member States of the European Union have now started to deal with all these questions by changing their national contract law. This happens mainly through the implementation of the E-commerce Directive which includes a lot of provisions on these issues. Of course directives only indicate the goals to be achieved. It is up to Member States how to transform them into national legislation

E-commerce project, problems and solutions
If your project is to develop an e-commerce system for a company, then there may be some questions that might show up like:
1. What potential problems are encountered when setting up an e-commerce system?
2. What are the solutions for those problems?
3. What factors do we have to take care of when setting up the e-commerce system?
4. How to make the system cheaper and user-friendly?
5. How to maintain the system after building it?

This is a job for your imagination!
First, you need to imagine how your online shop would be structured. You should probably make some notes or draw pictures or do what ever works for you to envision your shop. It might help to look at similar kinds of shops already selling on-line
Once you’ve done this, you need to think about everything that could go wrong in setting up and operating the shop. From your question it is not clear whether you are dealing only with technical problems (in which case, problems such as hard-disk crash, hacking, system overload, etc need to be considered) or whether you are dealing with all kinds of problems (in which case you also need to look at issues like developing customer trust, legal issues, finance, etc). But, I’m sure your imagination can find a lot of potential problems. If possible, get a friend or two to help. Your friend will see problems you don’t.
Now that you know the potential problems, you need to use your imagination together with your technical knowledge to think about solutions.
Likewise, continue this exercise in your imagination and taking advantage of your technical knowledge. If your imagination hasn’t been getting enough exercise lately, read JPB’s Creative Ten Steps to Boosting Creativity at

ISPs want to offer e-commerce services
I think it might be a very good idea if Internet Service Providers (ISPs) wanted to provide ecommerce services. E-commerce is, of course, a wide field. But you will clearly want to offer e-commerce services that are relevant to your current customer base (it’s easier to sell to existing customers and people like them).
Assuming your business customers are mostly small to medium-sized business, you will probably want to provide an online shopping mall where your customers can set up shop and sell their products. This should include, at the very least, these features for shop owners…
• a simple interface that allows shop owners to create their on-line shop
• a simple catalogue tool that allows shop owners to put their products on the web.
• a shopping cart system that allows customers to buy products from the shop owner
• a payment system that allows customers to pay shop owners.
The best thing to do would be to look at some on-line malls, such as Yahoo Shopping, 123Plaza and others. In addition, you should look at other ISPs, in Nigeria and elsewhere, to see what kind of e-commerce services they offer their customers.
On the other hand, if your customers are big companies, then you will probably need to develop customised solutions for each customer. In this case, you will really need one or more expert e-commerce consultants to work with your clients, determine their needs and define solutions.
In any event, you will eventually need to hire some e-commerce experts to help get your new service up and running.