Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

UK-HoC: Electronic Commerce Inquiry

29 January 1999. Thanks to DC. Source:

House of Commons

Trade and Industry Committee

Trade and Industry Committee Press Notice No. 2A of Session 1998-99 dated 15 January 1999

Electronic Commerce Inquiry: Guidelines for Witnesses

The House of Commons Select Committee on Trade and Industry announced an inquiry into electronic commerce on 3 December 1998 (see press notice No. 2). The committee is anxious to receive as wide a range of submissions as possible.

1.The Trade and Industry Committee scrutinises the work of the Department of Trade and Industry. Further background on the select committee system is available at

2.The select committee has set itself a wide remit because the Government defines electronic commerce issues so widely. The committee may, during the course of its deliberations, decide to focus on some issues at the expense of others.

3.Recent documents of relevance to the inquiry include DTI's Net Benefit document at; the Secure Electronic Commerce Statement at; Our Information Age at; the recent Competitiveness White Paper at; and the various DTI consultation papers on trusted third parties. In addition, there is a joint Inland Revenue/Customs and Excise paper on taxation issues at and information on the initiative at

4.There are two useful papers published by POST (the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology) POST 114 on internet commerce and POST 110 on electronic government. These are available as downloadable PDFs from

5.The Government is due shortly to produce a consultation paper on its proposed secure electronic commerce Bill, which will be one of the foci of the committee's inquiry. The committee would welcome submission of responses made to the consultation.

6.Members of Parliament daily receive a mass of papers. If a memorandum is to command their attention, it should be brief and to the point. In particular, it should address the matters raised by the committee's inquiry and concentrate on the issues with which the witness has a special interest. A typical length would be about 1,000 words. Essential statistics or further details can be added as appendices.

7.Memoranda should be submitted on white A4 paper, single-sided, with each page (including appendices) numbered. Ideally, paragraphs should also be numbered. Memoranda should be dated, with the name, address and telephone number of the person in the organisation who is responsible for submission given at the end. Memoranda should be submitted to the address at the end of this press notice.

8.It is at the committee's discretion to print any evidence it receives. Any information which a witness would not wish to be considered for publication should be clearly marked. The committee staff must be advised as soon as possible of any plans by witnesses to publish memoranda submitted to the committee.

9.The committee has asked for all written evidence to be submitted by 15 February, although extensions to that deadline will be considered. The committee may decide, having read a memorandum, to invite a witness to give oral evidence.

Some Issues of Interest

The committee indicated some of its major issues of interest in Press Notice No. 2. This supplementary information is intended to assist witnesses in the preparation of a memorandum, following on from that initial guidance. Although it would be helpful if submissions could reflect these issues, the committee would welcome other and additional approaches to the subject. The committee wishes to address:

1. The Impact of Electronic Commerce

on consumers on manufacturing industry, including existing users of EDI schemes on service industry, including retailers, the financial services and banking sectors, legal services providers, accountacy firms, computer services and software firms and internet service providers. on government, particularly in relation to various electronic government iniatives, the University for Industry, taxation issues, consumer protection, law enforcement and intelligence gathering.

The committee is interested in the relationship between electronic commerce and the strategy outlined in the Government's recent Competitiveness White Paper. It is also particularly concerned with the exploitation of electronic commerce by SMEs.

The committee would also be interested to hear from organisations which have dealt electronically with DTI or its associated executive agencies, including Companies House and the Patent Office.

2. Government Regulation

which Government regulations, or proposed regulations, are impeding the development of electronic commerce? in what areas would it be desirable for the Governement to introduce new regulations? in what areas could Government usefully encourage the development of electronic commerce_eg. telecommunications infrastructure? to what extent may Government regulation drive electronic commerce "off-shore" to relatively deregulated environments?

The implications of electronic commerce for intellectual property rights are of particular interest.

3. Secure Electronic Commerce Bill

The Government's consultation paper on the secure electronic commerce Bill will be one focus of the committee's inquiry. The committee intends to pursue a number of issues, including:

the extent to which legislation on the admissibility of digital signatures in UK courts is required; the propoposed special status for digital signatures certified by a licensed authority; and issues associated with the maintenance of authoritative electronic documents over time. the proposed licensing regime for certification authorities, including its benefits and costs, regulation and interaction with overseas services. issues associated with key escrow, including liability, privacy concerns and technological implications.

The committee would welcome submission of responses to the Government's consultation.

4. Global and European Policy Developments

The committee would wish to be appraised of the development of global and European policy on aspects of electronic commerce and the likely impact of such policy on the UK.

5. Technological Developments

what are the implications of the development of electronic commerce delivery modes other than the internet? what are the implications of the development of new forms of business which exist almost entirely on-line? what are the implications of the development of new forms of electronic payment systems? does Government have a role in promoting the development of systems which permit low value electronic transaction? to what extent should Government promote research into new developments associated with electronic commerce?

Evidence should be submitted to:

Clerk to the Trade and Industry Committee
7 Millbank
London SW1P 2JA

Direct line: 0171 219 5778

Previous reports and press notices (from Session 1996-97 onward) can be viewed on the internet.