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Eu Set For Ecommerce Rethink

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Martin Burns

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User since: 26 Apr 1999

Articles written: 143

An emergency EU meeting has been set for early September to hammer out a directive which would enable all companies to trade online in a single market.

The 9th September summit is vital to the future of European ecommerce, according to Mike Pullen, EU specialist lawyer at Dibb Lupton Alsop. He says that if no agreement is reached on a new directive, online trade could be set back by as much as 20 years.

"The directive is important as it removes the legal uncertainty for ecommerce traders. The directive means that if you comply with the law of the country in which you are based you'll be able to trade through all 15 EU member states without worrying about the other 14 countries which may be more difficult or strict," he said.

Current law - known as the Brussels and Rome conventions - focuses on the location of the consumer, not the servers that they are accessing. Therefore any ecommerce operator needs to comply with the laws of every possible country they trade in, rather than their own home country.

The Brussels convention thereby enables foreign consumers to sue e-traders in their own jurisdiction through their own courts. However, the Rome convention presents a bigger problem.

"The Rome convention is potentially more dangerous as it leaves e-traders subject to the unfair competition laws in certain jurisdictions. For example if a UK company is offering a two for the price of three on its Web site, which is perfectly legal under UK law, it may be breaching another country's unfair competition laws and might face sanctions," Pullen says.

The onus is now on the government and industry representatives attending the summit, to modify the Brussels convention and scrap the Rome convention, he added.

Martin Burns has been doing this stuff since Netscape 1.0 days. Starting with the communication ends that online media support, he moved back through design, HTML and server-side code. Then he got into running the whole show. These days he's working for these people as a Project Manager, and still thinks (nearly 6 years on) it's a hell of a lot better than working for a dot-com. In his Copious Free Time™, he helps out running a Cloth Nappies online store.

Amongst his favourite things is ZopeDrupal, which he uses to run his personal site. He's starting to (re)gain a sneaking regard for ECMAscript since the arrival of unobtrusive scripting.

He's been a member of since the very early days, a board member, a president, a writer and even contributed a modest amount of template code for the current site. Above all, he likes to do things because it knowingly chooses to do so, rather than randomly stumbling into them. He's also one of the boys and girls who beervolts in the UK, although the arrival of small children in his life have knocked the frequency for 6.

Most likely to ask: Why would a client pay you to do that?

Least likely to ask: Why isn't that navigation frame in Flash?

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