The European Commission (EC) last week launched plans for a charter on Internet commerce. The International Communications Charter is designed to encourage international co-operation on the rules of business on the Internet. Martin Bangmann, the European commissioner for telecommunications, recommended the start of an international debate regarding global communications, to set a framework for policy co-operation. Bangmann noted that numerous regulatory actions exist at national and regional levels which are not always co-ordinated. Unless these approaches were harmonised they could hinder the development of the on-line economy, he said. The EU has estimated that Web trade will reach ECU200 billion (#133 billion) by the year 2000. The move was well-received by vendors. David Clark, marketing director of PC wholesaler Computer 2000, said: "We are developing on-line links with our customers all the time, and this is a tremendously important issue. There needs to be some uniformity in law between countries, but how far it goes down is the key issue. Businesses need to be allowed to have ways of working which suits their business and their market." IBM, a strong advocate of Ecommerce, also welcomed the initiative. Chris Godwin, IBM issues manager, pointed out that current data protection laws mean that information on European citizens can not be held in the US. "Any disharmony in law between countries could become a trade barrier to electronic commerce," he said. Although not binding in law, the proposed charter would recommend governments to co-ordinate on issues such as labour law, data protection regulation, on-line advertising, trademark law, and consumer rights. The EC will discuss the charter at its next Telecom and General Affairs council, and will invite comment from users and their international partners during 1998. The charter is expected to be announced in late 1998 or early 1999.
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