Parliament: Trade: Tories attack `cumbersome' e-commerce rules

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The Independent Online
THE TORIES intensified their attack on the Government's failure to deliver on e-commerce yesterday, claiming its proposed legislation was "cumbersome and over-bureaucratic".

Alan Duncan, the shadow trade and industry minister, launched his attack in the Commons, hoping to achieve a world record by transmitting the first digitally-signed petition in protest against the Government's approach.

During the Electronic Communication Bill's second reading, he said: "We have called for a common-sense approach with a light, crisp Bill that makes provision for the legal recognition of electronic signatures, without hindering e-commerce with all sorts of cumbersome clauses."

Internet users would for the first time have a legally-binding "electronic signature", aimed at boosting consumer confidence in electronic trade. Patricia Hewitt, the e-commerce minister, said the European Union would adopt the electronic signatures directive today, to be added to the Bill later.

"Price transparency will intensify competition across the EU," she added. The ability to buy freely from suppliers in other countries will enable consumers to seek out the best deal, without leaving home."

But Tories oppose other provisions to introduce statutory backup for the voluntary, self-regulatory scheme of trust service providers which allows Internet users to verify who has sent an e-mail so they know confidential information such as credit card details will be secret.

Mr Duncan said later he would offer his petition to the Guinness Book of Records because it was the world's first to use the technology of electronic signature.

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