NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

ABA Taskforce Report On Cyber Law

August 25, 2000

Currently, both consumers and businesses are unsure what or whose laws govern e-commerce with respect to such things as consumer protection and privacy, financial transactions, and taxes, or even what level of government regulates such matters. While e-commerce is expanding consumer choice, consumers may be at a disadvantage because a transaction's contract terms may be buried behind several mouse clicks. Establishing legal parameters for online business would create certainty and predictability, encouraging the growth of e-commerce.

An American Bar Association (ABA) taskforce report identifies possible solutions to the problems of an environment in which commerce is not dependent on physical location. These include:

  • Creating a multinational commission to develop uniform principles and protocols for online business deals.
  • Developing online forms of dispute resolution, such as cyber-tribunals and voluntary industry councils.
  • And encouraging the development and use of "bots," programmable electronic agents, to protect consumers from websites that do not meet their privacy and protection standards.

The taskforce noted that the efforts of any one state or nation will have limited impact on these areas, and suggests that only a global consensus will be useful. The recommendations appear to encourage greater use of voluntary dispute resolution methods such as arbitration and mediation rather than legal action.

The group also warns that "The proliferation of privacy laws with different specific requirements threatens confusion and jurisdictional conflict, especially since the most recent laws tend to assert a far-reaching jurisdiction to control activities involving data about local consumers."

Source: "Achieving Legal and Business Order in Cyberspace: A Report on Global Jurisdiction Issues Created by the Internet," July 2000, American Bar Association Jurisdiction in Cyberspace Project.


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