The E-commerce Directive and E-commerce Laws


The e-commerce directive. Its articles. Not the Wild West. The Internet is not the Wild West contrary to what many people think. It is in fact heavily regulated. This is due in the main because the existing laws relating to say for example the sale of goods will apply to sales over the internet as well as the possibility of two countries laws being applicable to a particular contract.

Legislators were concerned. As a consequence a significant amount of legislation was introduced on a pan European basis which sought to provide a framework and safety net for e-commerce.

The E-Commerce Directive

The granddaddy of this new frontier is the Council Directive (EC) 2000/31 (‘the E-Commerce Directive’) which aimed to ensure that both B2B and B2C that provide and receive goods or services for payment and at a distance would have to adhere to the E-commerce Directive.

The most important articles are as follows:

Article 3- Where the business is placed-Establishment.

An establishment is one where the establishment is pursues its economic activity, irrespective of the location of the server, website or mailbox.

Article 5- What a website needs to provide- Information.

All businesses that provide Internet services must provide in their terms detailed information about the business including their name, geographic address, contact details and any trade registration or business authorisation information.

Articles 9-11-How to form a contract.

Putting it simply these articles ensure that contracts can be concluded electronically and insists that member states remove all restrictions on contracts being formed online.

Articles 12-14 – Who shall be liable?

May website operators simply provide content or act as conduits or intermediaries for service providers. As there is no immediate requirement for a service provider to monitor the contents of website they shall not be liable. However, this does not let the third party off the hook. If once the service provider is informed of the harmful or libellous material then it must act.
The E-Commerce Directive was implemented in the United Kingdom by the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002.

Michael Coyle, the author of this article, is a Solicitor Advocate and can be contacted at

Lawdit Solicitors is a commercial law firm based in Southampton.