01 September 1999

INTERNATIONAL pressure from the burgeoning e-commerce industry resulted in a smart about-turn by the European Commission. The volte face concerns a controversial clause in the EC’s draft e-commerce directive which, if implemented, would give consumers the right to pursue legal action against web traders in the country of destination – negating the ‘country of origin’ principle inherent in the directive. This has been described by direct marketers and e-commerce traders alike as likely to have 'a chilling effect on electronic commerce'. Unless amended, the directive will become law on 11 December and, following intensive lobbying, an eleventh-hour hearing on 4/5 November has been granted by the EC Task Force on Justice and Home Affairs. The EC blames the industry for letting the issue get this far without challenge: 'The trade bodies did not pick up on it. Only one law firm has run with it', alleged an EC spoke. The charge was refuted by FEDMA director-general Alistair Tempest: 'In this case there has been exceptional secrecy and non-co-operation', he says. 'It [the EC] didn’t tell anyone it was doing it.'