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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

The development of e-commerce within Europe could be hampered by the failure by several European Union member states to meet the deadline for implementing the European Union E-Commerce Directive, according to research house Gartner.

The UK was among several member states that confirmed it failed to meet the January 17, 2002 deadline for Directive 2000/31/EC, which aims to put a legal framework around e-commerce transactions. The directive covers the establishment of electronics service providers, the validity of electronic contracts, the ability for consumers to opt out of unsolicited email advertisements, and the liability of intermediates such as internet service providers. The UK aims to comply by mid-2002.

Until the member states comply with the directive, the legal framework will remain fluid. However, EU-wide compliance will not automatically help the prospects for e-commerce, as complementary directives such as the one that regulates and protects personal data in electronic communications is held up as the European Parliament and Council argue about how to deal with email spam, cookies and surveillance. There is also uncertainty regarding taxation of online sales.

In the face of these uncertainties, Stamford, Connecticut-based Gartner advises that organizations should establish policies and suitable processes to minimize liabilities under current law and reassess them periodically.

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