Electronic commerce and Internet : Liberal and regulatory point of view
(By Julien Letellier)

    What to say about the internet medium but that many others media seems jealous of his incredible increase in the past few years. The Internet is often compare as a new "Far West" and many people still view it as an area where reign the law of the strongest.

Internet was originally conceived as a medium which would be used by any citizens equipped with a computer and a modem. The tool was once only reserved for scientists then for academic exchanges. Since few years, the internet has emerged as a strong network. No wonder that it is used today as a new commercial vector. Students from all around the world, doctors, lawyers use the internet as an additional source of information or sometimes as the only source they can get.

The use of the internet as a new entity as begun to create some new activities as well as some new needs. It seems as if the Internet Technology is having a profound effect on the global trade in services. World trade has increased rapidly in hte past few decade. This is often an important part of exports for many countries. According to the americans government, commerce on the internet could total tens of billions of dollars by the turn of the century.

But, for this potential to be realized fully, the two majors way of thinking commerce on the internet have to reach a same point of view. The opposition between a liberal vision brought by the USA and a state regulatory vision brought by Europe has lead recenlty to the Ottawa's Conference. 29 ministers discussed on what could be the new legal frame on the internet. As to satisfy a compromise beteween the two visions, the different countries must find a way to regulate the extensive business over the internet.

According to the American vision, governments in the world must adopt a "non-regulatory" market-oriented approach to electronic commerce. This should facilitate the emergence of transparent and predictable legal environment to support global business and commerce. All this goes to show that the american wants the private sector to lead the game. The american wants the official decision makers to respect the unique nature of the medium. This means that they should all recognize the widespread competition and that the consumers choice should be the definig feature of the new digital features of the marketplace. But, as the american commerce minister pointed out during the Ottawa conference, "every governements has to make sure that the companies behave correctly". The federal American governement threaten to take legal framework if the companies do not agree til' the end of the year on a code of good behavior for the protection of privacy.

As a matter of fact, many businesses and consumers are still afraid of conducting extensive business over the internet because of the lack of a predictable legal environment governing transactions. This is particularly true for international activity where concerns about enforcement of contracts, liability, intellectual protection, privacy security and others matters have caused businesses and consumers to be cautious.

Many companies and internet users are aware that some governements will impose extensive regulations on the internet and electronic comemrce. That is the vision that France try to impose through the industry state sevretary of France. Even if France is persuaded that initiative of private sector and that state regulatory are complementary, it seems a if it would be better to look for a legal frame that should work for all the new intermissions on the internet.