Electronic commerce, commonly known as e-commerce, refers to transactions concluded using an electronic or computer network such as the internet. It involves the buying and selling of goods and services or the transfer of funds and data online.
In South Africa, one of the laws impacting e-commerce is the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 2002 (ECTA). ECTA recognises information generated, sent, received or stored by electronic or telephonic means as having legal validity. In creating a contract between parties, an agreement is concluded bylaw, at the time when and place where the acceptance of the offer was received. Hence all orders through a South African website for goods and services, placed by a consumer outside South Africa will be governed by South African law. This is because South Africa is the place where the offer to purchase such goods and services was accepted.
ECTA protects South African consumers by providing for consent to an agreement which can be in the form of a website pop up window or dialogue box where the consumer selects ‘OK’, ‘I agree’ or ‘I accept’ or by way of an electronic signature. Whatever the form of electronic transaction, the information sent, received or stored must be accessible at a later point in time.
ECTA also protects consumers that opt to purchase goods or services online and sets a number of obligations on vendors. Protection includes data privacy, contract terms as well as requiring a marketers’, advertisers’ or publishers’ payment system to be sufficiently secure and to meet acceptable technological standards at the time of the transaction. Moreover, a vendor must provide a customer an opportunity to review an order, correct any mistakes or cancel the order before it is finalized. If advertisers, marketers or publishers fail to do this, the consumer may cancel the order within fourteen days of receiving the goods or services. In such cases, the consumer must return the products delivered and be refunded. Consumers also have a right to cancel a purchase and any related credit facility within seven days after the date of receipt and after seven days after the conclusion of a service agreement. In such instances, an advertiser, marketer or publisher may only charge for the direct cost of returning the goods.
When sending marketing communication over email, there are a few legal implications. In
marketing or advertising such products, consumers must be given an option to unsubscribe from commercial was obtained. One should also be aware that contracts cannot be entered into without the consumer’s consent. The lack of a response to a