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Commissioner Bolkestein welcomes political agreement on e-commerce Directive

The Council of ministers agreed on a common position for the proposed electronic commerce directive at a meeting on 7 December 1999, a move welcomed by internal market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein.

The Directive will establish a coherent legal framework for the development o...
The Council of ministers agreed on a common position for the proposed electronic commerce directive at a meeting on 7 December 1999, a move welcomed by internal market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein.

The Directive will establish a coherent legal framework for the development of electronic commerce within the Single Market. It would ensure that the Internal Market principles of free movement of services and freedom of establishment could be applied to the Information Society, if they comply with the laws in their country of origin.

Specific harmonised rules would be established only in those areas strictly necessary to ensure that business and citizens could supply and receive Information Society services throughout the EU, irrespective of frontiers. These areas will include the definition of where operators are established, transparency obligations for operators, transparency requirements for commercial communications, conclusion and validity of electronic contracts, liability of Internet intermediaries, online dispute settlement and role of national authorities.

In other areas the Directive would be built on existing EU instruments which provide for harmonisation or on mutual recognition of national laws. Together with these instruments, the Directive will eliminate the remaining legal obstacles to the on-line provision of services, and thereby optimise the benefits of electronic commerce for both citizens and industry in the European Union.

Commissioner Bolkestein said: �I am delighted that both the parliament and Council have been able to reach a preliminary agreement on this proposal in just one year. This rapid progress reflects recognition of the urgent need for a clearly defined legal framework based on Internal Market principles to allow electronic commerce to develop its enormous potential for economic growth, investment in innovation and job creation in Europe.

�The Internal Market provides an ideal basic framework for the free movement of services and mutual recognition of each others� rules and supervision. At the same time, e-commerce brings a whole new dimension to the Internal Market, notably in terms of making cross-border trade a practical option both for companies, irrespective of their size or location, and for consumers.�

The electronic commerce market is growing fast. In Europe it is already worth 17 billion euro, and is expected to reach 340 billion euro by 2003.

The Common Position will be formally adopted without discussion at a forthcoming Council meeting, from where it will pass to the European Parliament for its second reading.
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