Panama's New E-Commerce Law:

Author:Mr Juan F Pardini
Profession:Pardini & Associates

According to renowned "E-Readiness Report" presented earlier this year by the prestigious McConnell International - "in every country, a relationship of trust, accountability and predictability between public and private sectors is essential. For nations with a market-oriented economy where the government does not itself dominate the economy or the provision of communications services, staying out of the way of market forces - except to protect consumers - is the first priority".

Panama took a step in the right direction when the new e-commerce bill was signed into Law 43 by Panama's President, Mireya Moscoso on July 31, 2001. Believed to be the first of its kind to be implemented in Central America, the new law is expected to provide a much needed boost to Panama's e-commerce industry. This Law represents an advance for the legal recognition of electronic documents and signatures, which are elements necessary to increase the confidence in transactions conducted electronically. Its provisions on electronic documents are loosely based on the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Draft E-commerce Law.

The bill establishes a certification procedure and penalizes the non compliance of contracts. It also envisions the creation of an e-commerce directorate at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, which will be responsible for authorizing certification entities.

Activities regulated under this law are subject to the following principles:

Freedom to provide services: to maintain the right of service providers to continue their legal trading activities without prohibition from the government;

Open market: to ensure the absence of monopolistic practices and to remain impartial to the provider of any specific type of technology;

Technological neutrality: by eliminating the elements in an earlier draft of the bill that favored encrypted technologies;

International compatibility: by using international criteria to supervise certification authorities and acknowledge certificates

Legal recognition of electronic data messages: by granting electronic documents full value as evidence; and

Functional equivalence of e-commerce to traditional commerce: acknowledging as valid in electronic documents the same elements of traditional agreements, such as offer, acceptance and others.

Legal Requirements for a valid electronic document

Under traditional civil regulations, an agreement is executed by the granting of...

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