The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act
The emergence of personal computers that are portable during the 80’s and 90’s changed the way companies conducted their business. There was the whole move from files and files of paper to electronic databases. Although this move was a significant step in simplifying the way business was conducted, it did not create any new spaces and channels for marketing and sales people to exploit. Customers were still limited to buying goods and services at a store and/or use mail order method. This was very expensive especially for small businesses as the cost of building or renting or buying a physical store is extremely high. Then internet came along and changed everything. People were connected to each other regardless of their geographical location. Business realised that there is an opportunity to market and sell their products and services through this channel. Marketing and sales people saw an opportunity to explore wider markets and trade their products and services to consumers around the world. This led to buyers and sellers concluding transactions over the internet (online). Small businesses also came to the fore as costs were now greatly reduced. One didn’t need to have bricks and mortar to trade from. A small entrepreneur can set up a web page and use it to sell their goods and services. Moreover, a payment can also be effected over the internet. In South Africa, there was no specific legislation regulating trade over the internet, however, in 2002 the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (ECTA) was introduced. The Act seeks to regulate this environment by protecting the rights of both the buyer and the seller. The Act has certain provisions that deal with matters such as domain names, facilitating electronic transactions, consumer protection, cyber crime, etc. These matters will now be scrutinized deeper to illustrate their application and practicability in the real business world. This will be done by attending to 2 instructions from a client, John. Instruction 1
2. Formal requirements for a web page
A web page is a very powerful tool in the modern business world. It is essentially a platform to trade. Due to the fact that contracts are concluded and payments are effected over this platform, the ECT Act requires suppliers to put certain to put certain information on the web page. In fact, Thornton et al. (2006:277) put this issue as follows: “Section 43 of the ECT Act provides that a supplier offering goods or services for sale, for hire or for exchange by way of an electronic transaction must make information listed under this section available to consumers on the website where such goods or services are offered. Such suppliers must, for example, provide their full details (i.e. full name, legal status, physical address, telephone numbers, e-mail address, physical address where they would receive legal service of documents (an impressive improvement on the conventional terminology of ‘Domicilium citandi et executandi’)) and generally a sufficient description of the goods/services so that a potential purchaser can make an informed decision about a potential purchase and the price of the goods/services”. Collier-Reed & Lehmann (2010:518) expands on the list and includes details relating to security of payment and personal information, the return, exchange and refund policy, etc. From the above, it is clear that a web page has to comply with the sections of the Act and thereby have sufficient information for the protection of both the consumers and suppliers. Annexure 1, Illustrates this information using Zando web page.
3. Validity of internet offers & Enforceability of agreements The law of contract requires that, for a contract to be concluded and be enforceable, an agreement (consensus) must be reached. A valid offer and a valid acceptance must take place. Where transaction takes place over internet via data message, it...
Bibliography: Collier-Reed, D; Lehmann, K (Red). Basic Principles of Business Law. 2nd Edition, 2010.Lexis Nexis, Butterworths:Durban.
Thornton, L; Carrim, Y; Mtshaulana, P; Reburn,P. Telecommunications Law in South Africa. 1st Edition. 2006. STE Publishers: Johannesburg.
South Africa. 2002. Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 25 of 2002.
Http://www.zando.co.za/terms-of-use. Date of access: 07 March 2013
South Africa. 2009. Double Eagles Brands N.V. v Digital Orange. [2009-0037]
9. Annexure 1
The attachment shows the terms and conditions for the use of the website, http://www.zando.co.za.
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