The recent boom of the internet in Europe and the emergence of a new kind of commerce (e-commerce) led to a widening of the commercial offers that can be proposed to the consumers. Simultaneous with such an expansion in internet offering come the demand for online security regarding the rights and interests of the internet users; in Europe, a person considered as a consumer is protected by the consumer rights. Moreover, texts and laws directly dealing with e-commerce are very uncommon.
Anyhow, the European Commission is currently involved in many projects with special priorities: digital signature, electronic payments, financial services and adaptation of the existing rules to the specificities of the net. As a matter of fact, the development of the internet implies a certain number of adaptations to efficiently protect the consumer.
Still, as these laws are yet to be implemented, the traditional consumer\'s right can be applied to the internet in general. That is why, the contracts concluded in an electronic form between a salesman and a consumer come under the application of the European directive of 20 May, 1997, concerning the protection of consumers for distance contracts.
As a matter of fact, contracts concluded on the net are distance contracts concluded between partners who do not see each other (who are not concretely present to conclude the contract). This directive represents the main text concerning electronic commerce and the protection of consumers that it implies.
Nevertheless, the study of this directive shows many weaknesses that could slacken the development of e-commerce. The whole question of the consumer rights online revolves around building a consumer\'s right that can effectively protect consumers to boost their confidence in engaging in e-commerce. Behind the right lies one of the most important questions for the future of e-commerce: as a matter of fact, secure transactions represent a major issue for salesmen as e-commerce implies a great potential for new customers but only if the transaction is secure.
Moreover, customers can also benefit from the appearance of an efficient and new consumer\'s right as e-commerce may offer even the widest possibilities and offers linked with an easy access and delivery.
The directive is applied to "every contract concerning goods and services concluded between a tradesman and a consumer for a distance sale or service organized by the tradesman, who, for this specific contract, uses exclusively one or many techniques of distance communication until the end of the contract".
This definition is restrictive in itself:
- It only concerns contracts exclusively contracted at distance: if before, after or during the conclusion of the contract, the parties meet each other, the directive can\'t be applied.
- The conclusion of the contract in itself must be realised at distance : here again, if every other element of the contract is dealt with at distance but if only the conclusion of the contract is made in presence of all the parties, the protection of the directive won\'t be applied.
A definition of the notion of technique of communication at distance is given with an indicative list of what recovers this notion. Any means that can be used to conclude a contract, without any physical and simultaneous presence of the parties, is considered as a technique of distance communication: videotext techniques, emails, fax or TV.
The technical operator of communication is the individual that gives to his/her tradesman one or many techniques of distance communication. This notion implies service centers, phone operators, postal operators, etc. Simple software of communication such as Netscape or Explorer must not be considered as technical operators of communication. This definition is important especially for the player's responsibility: they have the obligation, such as tradesmen, to put an end to the practices that are not in accordance with the dispositions of the directive (when they are able to do so).
Tags:digital signature, electronic payments,distance selling, internet consumers security
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