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[FYI] EUROPE: Light touch on the web


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EUROPE: Light touch on the web 

Europe's liberalisers are gaining the edge in the debate over e-
commerce regulation, writes Deborah Hargreaves  

Europe has been agonising for ages over how to regulate the 
freewheeling environment of the internet. But the outline of an 
agreement is beginning to emerge, and it is in favour of a light 
regulatory touch.  

The debate has exposed fundamental differences between member states. 
But one sign of the direction in which opinion is moving comes today 
when ministers will try to agree the electronic commerce directive, 
an important piece of legislation prepared by the European 

Britain, Ireland and France have been pressing for a set of common 
standards, rather than draconian legislation that could stifle the 
growth of e-commerce; now other countries, including Germany, are 
coming round to the same view. Germany, together with Austria and the 
Netherlands, had previously wanted to extend its domestic commercial 
legislation to e-commerce. This approach would have meant that in 
Germany, for example, some promotional offers would be banned from 
web sites under its unfair competition laws.  

Forcing companies to comply with the rules of each and every member 
country would make a "nonsense" of the directive, says Patricia 
Hewitt, the UK minister responsible for e-commerce.  

"It is immensely important that we get agreement if possible," she 
says. "There is a big prize to be won and that is a single market in 
e-commerce. That prize is within our grasp."  


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