Electronic Commerce Transactions
An electronic commerce transaction—also known as an e-commerce transaction—involves a commercial transaction that takes place over the world-wide-web (i.e., Internet). In this day and age, it is nearly impossible to run any form of business without having a website that engages in e-commerce transactions. Are you managing an online business? Are you having issues with your e-commerce transactions? If so, you should consult with an attorney to learn about your rights and responsibilities. As companies find it more difficult to maintain a brick-and-mortar business without an online business, business owners have had to familiarize themselves with the risks and benefits of e-commerce transactions. The transactions covered by the term “e-commerce” include the following categories: (i) business-to-business; (ii) business-to-consumer; (iii) consumer-to-consumer; and (iv) consumer-to-business. They also include three types of agreements: (i) shrinkwrap; (ii) clickwrap; and (iii) browsewrap. The form of agreement connotes distribution of products through delivery to a physical address, transfer of digital products via a network, or agreement for a consumer to access and use a website. Also, e-commerce transactions may involve e-cash, digital currencies, services, or any other form of value.
In general, state, federal, and international laws regulate e-commerce transactions. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is in charge of regulating e-commerce transactions. In fact, states regulate e-commerce through their own statutes, including, but not limited to, the Uniform Commercial Code. In order to prevent conflict in international laws, multiple countries have used the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Commerce as a model for their legislation. The United Nations Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts (“Electronic Communications Convention”) is a treaty that was prepared by UNCITRAL (United Nations Commission on International Trade Law). As of today, eighteen countries have become signatories to the treaty, such as Singapore and the Russian Federation. Other nations have declared an intention to join or are creating legislation based on the terms in the treaty.
The questions of what problems face e-commerce transactions and how businesses can avoid these problems plague any organization that deals with transactions over the Internet. From a practical perspective, e-commerce transactions involve similar issues facing international business transactions with the added complexity of cyber laws and crimes. Disputes connected to e-commerce transactions involve contractual and non-contractual issues (e.g., copyright, freedom of expression, consumer protection, and competition laws). Cross-border transactions create the issue of multiple states claiming jurisdiction over disputes. The ability for buyers and sellers to remain anonymous online has caused a wide range of problems that is distinct from offline business transactions. Intellectual property violations are a significant problem due to copyright, trademark, or patent infringements occurring in other jurisdictions. Third-party hosting websites can then be held liable if their anonymous subscribers post content that is in violation of e-commerce laws. Furthermore, online anonymity collides with privacy and freedom of expression laws, leading to a conflict of laws, online privacy disputes, and cross-jurisdictional issues.
For more information about e-commerce transactions, you should consult with an attorney. At our law firm, we assist clients with online privacy, cloud computing, cybersecurity, and online business-related matters.