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Industry agreement on access to electronic commerce for SMEs

A Memorandum of Understanding on open access to electronic commerce for SMEs was signed by more than 100 companies, SMEs, trade associations and local authorities in Brussels, on 25 February 1998. The agreement follows a European Commission initiative to ensure best practice i...
A Memorandum of Understanding on open access to electronic commerce for SMEs was signed by more than 100 companies, SMEs, trade associations and local authorities in Brussels, on 25 February 1998. The agreement follows a European Commission initiative to ensure best practice in the field of electronic commerce.

The signature of the Memorandum of Understanding was welcomed by Commissioner Martin Bangemann, responsible for industry, telecommunications and the Information Society. "This is a good example for a type of self regulation which will increase users' confidence in electronic commerce. I am particularly satisfied that a large number of SMEs and their organizations are among the signatories of the Memorandum," he said.

The Guidelines are the result of a year's worth of discussions within the industry, which aimed to find agreement on practical solutions to questions such as the interoperability of electronic commerce. They highlight the importance of SMEs in the development of electronic commerce in Europe. Five main areas are covered by the Guidelines:

- Developing an architecture for electronic commerce: An overall agreed architecture will facilitate interoperability;

- Standards for product information and marketing: The agreement calls for the development of common standards to allow on-line searching across borders;

- Exchanging legally binding documents: In order to ensure users can trust electronic signatures and methods of electronic payment, guidelines for certification authorities are required;

- Payment systems: Voluntary industry agreements need to be established to ensure that electronic payment methods are compatible and interoperable;

- Rights and responsibilities: Issues such as data protection, copyright and the right to redress need also to be addressed to ensure that users have confidence in the electronic marketplace.
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