Changes to Electronic Transactions Act soon

Amendments to the Electronic Transactions Act of 2006 that are to be gazetted shortly will boost online as well as cross-border trade by providing greater clarity for e-commerce, according to Director and Legal Advisor at the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), Jayantha Fernando.

“After the amendment is through in the latter part of April, we’ll have a more sophisticated and a more certain legal environment for e-commerce to take off in Sri Lanka,” he said.

“The aim of the amendments is not only to modernise the existing law, but also to ensure greater clarity and predictability of using e-commerce from a cross-border perspective. Last Thursday the Legal Draftsman finalised the revised final version of the ETA and sent it for clearance to be gazetted,” Fernando said.

Sri Lanka’s ratification of the UN Convention on the use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts (ECC) will also help in cross-border trade between State parties, Fernando said at the seminar on ‘Consumer Rights in the Digital Age’ organised by the Institute of Policy Studies to mark World Consumer Rights Day on March 15.

Sri Lanka is a signatory to the ECC along with Singapore and China and Australia is due to sign soon.

After the amendments are passed, businesses in Sri Lanka will be able to do ‘B2B’ (business-to-business) e-commerce on a reciprocal basis which will be significant, Fernando said.

He said that in the discussions between Sri Lanka and Singapore on the free trade agreement, “the entire ecommerce chapter is based on the fact that Singapore and Sri Lanka have both ratified this only international treaty on e-commerce and digital commerce.”

The Electronic Transactions Act has created a more certain enabling platform, not only for e-commerce but creating certainty in the case of admissibility of electronic evidence in court as well. The main amendments include the location of a party’s business, making it not dependent on factors like domain address, location of servers and place where system is accessed, greater technology neutrality for e–signatures and cross-border recognition, and recognition of the use of automated message systems for contract formation.

“Also, there’s an additional benefit to consumers in the digital space with the right of consumers to correct input errors and the obligation of the service provider to have a mechanism to enable consumers to do so,” Fernando said.

The amendments would also help make Sri Lanka more attractive for foreign direct investment as the act would provide ultimate legal certainty to cross-border digital commerce when a party is located in Sri Lanka. 

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