Do the e-Commerce Directive and "innnocent carrier" status still have any meaning?

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Publicity for the recent Austrian case regarding TOR  caused me to ponder whether the e-commerce directive still has any meaning. One the one hand we have market leaders touting for business across the EU without giving any physical contact details (how do you contact Paypal otehr than over the Internet?) on the other we have law cases (under both Common and Roman law) which appear to void the claims to innocent carrier status of those who know the status of that which they transmit (because their business models require this). 

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This begs the question what makes customers/consumers purchase goods and services from a website - bearing in mind that 60 percent of EU cross border e-commerce transactions are failing for one reason or another. We know that the e-commerce directive, distance selling directive and services directive require organisations to give information to online users e.g. geographical address, but do customers really care? If there is a brand name behind the website (e.g. PayPal or eBay) you would expect the brand name to 'take care' of any disputes between customer and supplier - which of course both these companies do through a dispute resolution schemes. The fact that PayPal is breaking European law appears irrelevant to users - just as the Facebook Privacy concerns have not stopped millions of people from registering with the site. But I think the real challenge for the E-commerce Directive and Digital Single Market is to provide cross border certainty between customers and SMEs (which are generally unknown, unbranded and yet often offer a better service than their larger competitors). It's the cyber version of encouraging customers back into the high street rather than seeing more out-of-town shopping malls.

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This page contains a single entry by Philip Virgo published on November 30, 2012 8:50 PM.

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