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E-commerce made easy

Government clears up European regulations on online marketing

The EU's E-Commerce Directive has created a lot of confusion for member states and lengthy negotiations have occurred here in the UK between government, companies and the general public to try to create a set of rules agreeable to all.

The UK Government this week presented Parliament with its regulations for e-commerce, which will come into effect on the 21 August.

The regulations incorporate both the DTI and Treasury reports on the implementation of the draft directive.

"After extensive and detailed consultation, we have arrived at the right framework for UK businesses and consumers," said Stephen Timms, e-commerce minister.

"The regulations will strengthen the development of e-commerce and help break down barriers across Europe and boost consumer confidence in online shopping," added Timms.

The regulations include several provisions for national law.

The Government decided that where a cross-border dispute occurred the country of origin's regulations should take effect.

Other provisions included several for spam email, most importantly, that commercial email marketing groups must respect the opt-in process — in other words mail can only be sent when it has been requested by the recipient, The exception to this is where junk mail is sent in the context of an existing customer relationship, in that case the sender must abide by the terms of the Data Protection Act.

The original draft regulations provided no decision on statutory notice-and-takedown procedures, governing the removal or disabling of access to information.

The government clearly stated that self-regulation as it stands has not proved effective enough.

It said it would get involved in creating codes with the industry, which it would encourage businesses to sign up to, but ultimately codes must be governed by the industry itself.

Under the European Communities Act, state governments do not have the power to order information to be taken down, but this could change, if necessary by implementing new EU regulations.

The E-Commerce directive was meant to be implemented in January of this year, but was delayed to provide the chance for further consultation, to ensure the best possible framework for the directive.

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