EU, U.S. Back Self-Regulation on Web

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After years of squabbling about data protection and privacy issues, the European Union and the United States this month issued a joint statement backing "self-regulatory codes of conduct" and alternate dispute resolutions to build consumer confidence in e-commerce.

The two sides noted that the Internet can "support the growth of cross-border consumer transactions at unprecedented levels," but warned that the Web was a challenge to existing legal frameworks.

The issues will be hard to resolve, the statement said, but solutions at the international level would increase global e-commerce growth, consumer confidence and the predictability of transactions.

E-commerce would be market-led and driven by private initiative and would require greater cooperation among governments, consumer groups, industry and academics.

The Federation of European Direct Marketing quickly issued a statement welcoming the move as a boon to direct marketing and e-tailing.

The joint statement, FEDMA said, "emphasizes the importance of a combination of private sector initiatives and a clear, consistent and predictable legal framework able to generate consumer confidence.

"This includes not only the development of good business practices, such as codes of practice, trustmarks and [alternate dispute resolutions] schemes, but also key elements such as protection of security and confidentiality, respects for privacy, timely delivery and fair disclosure of information."

While the EU won't abandon reliance on regulation to solve most global and internal market problems, the statement does indicate an interest in letting the Web grow more freely in the future.

The EU has approved resolutions to develop the Internet economy as rapidly as possible at several recent summit meetings. At the same time, the European Commission's legal department is reluctant to encourage self-regulation and ADRs.

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