Thought for the day:The great European wotsit

Hard-hitting IT commentator Dr Simon Moores gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day.I've just ducked a call from...

Hard-hitting IT commentator Dr Simon Moores gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day.I've just ducked a call from another journalist asking for comment on the European Union's e-commerce directive, something that I was up to speed on last year but since then, have conveniently ignored, much like the rest of the population, including our own Government, as the 17 January deadline for compliance passed.

So do you know what it is? Are you following the rules or will you be getting a visit from EuroPol in the distant future?
The directive is all about creating an agreed-upon structure for the conduct of e-commerce within the EU, which embraces both business and consumer rights which, of course, vary greatly between the member states.

In reality - and, unsurprisingly - we missed the implementation deadline in this country, but the Department of Trade and Industry has published a draft of the regulations for businesses to consult if they aren't sure of what it all means. Which, in most cases, means just about everyone outside of the DTI.

So I have been looking at my own Web site, and I'm pleased to say that I'm unlikely to be sent on a one-way trip to Devil's Island just yet. None the less, there's the inevitable red tape to cut through.

Is your VAT number on your Web site? Your e-mail and contact details? Nothing annoys me more than Web sites that don't have telephone numbers. One of the worst offenders I can remember was First E, the Internet bank. Everything had to be done by e-mail and it didn't occur to the bank that customers might wish to talk to someone in an emergency.

Consistency across commercial Web sites isn't a bad idea. It's certainly good for customers who can't tell the difference between a reputable online business and a shady Web service, but at least can look for clues from what they see or can't see.

The challenge, I suspect, for businesses who might be considered to be trading over the Web will lie in meeting the contractual regulations described in the EU directive and, from our own point of view, these remain draft regulations "under construction" until the beginning of next month.

I would recommend that every business with a Web presence at least consults the DTI Web page on what the regulations are, chapter and verse, and then adds in a Web page to their site called "Legal", rather like the one I have on my own site. This is where you can start to tuck in most of the detail that you will need to have in place once the EU directive becomes law over here.

Perhaps the best advice going is that if you have a Website, think "Euro" from now on, even if you don't accept the currency.

Will EU rules make the Web a better place? >> reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the Web site. Please state if your response is not for publication.

Zentelligence: Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and ramblings of the futurist writer, broadcaster and Computer Weekly columnist Simon Moores.

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