01 September 1998

THE GOVERNMENT is to give UK e-commerce a significant boost by conferring on electronic signatures the same legal status as that enjoyed by illegible scribbles on paper. The move, one of a package of measures to facilitate electronic trading, was announced at last month’s State opening of Parliament. Part of an electronic commerce bill, the initiative will be based on a system of voluntary licensing for companies providing electronic signature and encryption services. Such companies, known in lawyer-speak as 'trusted third parties', will also have their liability in case of loss quantified by the bill. The government believes the moves will boost confidence in e-trading and lead to wider use of the Internet for business dealings. The bill is ex-pected to become law early in the next parliamentary sitting.