One of the best features of the internet is its ability to transcend geography. E-commerce lends itself naturally to cross-border transactions. A proposal for a new legal structure to support pan-EU online transactions is working its way through the European process, now receiving resounding approval from the European Parliament. Commissioner Viviane Reding calls it 'a win-win deal for small and medium sized businesses and for all consumers in Europe'.
The plan is for an optional European Sales Law to free businesses and consumers from worrying about national rules. Requiring the agreement of both customer and seller, it would be available for sales of goods and digital content, and for business to business as well as business to consumer transactions.
This initiative looks at first sight like a promising addition to the online legal landscape. But neither the UK nor the German government likes it. They say that harmonising national laws is the way to go, and this new proposal is unworkable and incomplete.
If the planned law makes it through the process, businesses may find themselves under pressure to use it, with potential for a lot of uncertainty and litigation.