Federal Government to clarify legal status of e-commerce

Federal Government to clarify legal status of e-commerce

The Commonwealth Government has presented a draft bill to Parliament which, if passed, will elevate the legal status of orders placed electronically to an equal standing with their paper brethren.

The goal of the proposed legislation is to define what legally constitutes an order in the expanding world of e-commerce and includes uniform rules defined by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law's Working Group on Electronic Commerce.

Part of the draft Bill allows the use of satisfactory electronic authentication techniques as a signature can substitute for written ones. Conditions by which such security is acceptable are being defined by the UN's working group.

Malcolm McKinnon, managing director at Sydney reseller Computer Way, said it still performs telephone checks on all credit card details received via its Wholesale Direct Web site before supplying goods. He feels any Government legislation needs to enforce standard operating methods from the banking industry, which he claims to be lagging behind in making it easier for enterprises to do business over the Internet.

"We have had people trying to rip us off with false credit card details or stolen cards," said McKinnon. "The difficulty with the current situation is that you can't authenticate any credit card details without actually ringing that person and confirming whether they actually live at the address supplied and that it is theirs."

McKinnon said businesses trading online don't necessarily need to know all the details, but they need to know the credit cards they are billing are authentic and that they match the names and addresses being supplied. Any moves by the Government to circumnavigate some privacy issues involved with this would be to the benefit of all.

"We are very keen on governments standardising on e-commerce and more importantly the banks getting their act together," he said.

"In the cases where people have tried to rip us off they have given false details. Fortunately in this business, where we send the goods we are also able to send the police.

Commonwealth Government attention to this increasingly important issue has been commended by those affected. The Australian Bankers' Association chief executive, Tony Aveling said his industry supports any effort to define where all parties stand in the matter of e-commerce buying and vending.

"The banking industry supports a single regulatory regime, rather than a state-by-state approach and this draft bill is aimed at achieving that outcome," Aveling said in a press statement.

"The Commonwealth Bill has been drafted on the basic principals of technology neutrality and media neutrality. That approach is supported by the ABA," he added.

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