Reugulation of ecommerce aim to protect consumers from the sometimes complex mix of jusisdictions that may be involved when selling across borders.
Conflict of laws in cyberspace is a major hurdle for harmonization of legal framework for e-commerce around the world. In order to give a uniformity to e-commerce law around the world, many countries adopted the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Commerce (1996).
Internationally there is the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), which was formed in 1991 from an informal network of government customer fair trade organisations. The purpose was stated as being to find ways of co-operating on tackling consumer problems connected with cross-border transactions in both goods and services, and to help ensure exchanges of information among the participants for mutual benefit and understanding. From this came Econsumer.gov, an ICPEN initiative since April 2001. It is a portal to report complaints about online and related transactions with foreign companies.
The European Union undertook an extensive enquiry into e-commerce in 2015-16 which observed significant growth in the development of e-commerce, along with some developments which raised concerns, such as increased use of selective distribution systems, which allow manufacturers to control routes to market, and “increased use of contractual restrictions to better control product distribution”.
The European Commission felt that some emerging practices might be justified if they could improve the quality of product distribution, but “others may unduly prevent consumers from benefiting from greater product choice and lower prices in e-commerce and therefore warrant Commission action” in order to promote compliance with EU competition rules.
In the United Kingdom, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) was formerly the regulating authority for most aspects of the EU’s Payment Services Directive (PSD), until its replacement in 2013 by the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority.
The UK implemented the PSD through the Payment Services Regulations 2009 (PSRs), which came into effect on 1 November 2009. The PSR affects firms providing payment services and their customers. These firms include banks, non-bank credit card issuers and non-bank merchant acquirers, e-money issuers, etc. The PSRs created a new class of regulated firms known as payment institutions (PIs), who are subject to prudential requirements. Article 87 of the PSD requires the European Commission to report on the implementation and impact of the PSD by 1 November 2012.
In the United States, California’s Electronic Commerce Act (1984), enacted by the Legislature, and the more recent California Privacy Rights Act (2020), enacted through a popular election proposition, control specifically how electronic commerce may be conducted in California. In the US in its entirety, electronic commerce activities are regulated more broadly by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008, which came into law in 2008, amends the Controlled Substances Act to address online pharmacies.