Colombia has taken an important first step in enacting the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Commerce as permanent internal legislation. The text approved by the Colombian House of Representatives during its last legislative sessions in 1998 includes the full text of the UNCITRAL Model Law and regulates additional matters, not included therein. This year, the Colombian Senate must study the project approved by the House; unless unexpected considerations come to light, the project should be approved and enacted in this year.
The UNCITRAL Model Law dates from 1996, when the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 51/162, recommending member nations to enact legislation regarding electronic commerce, in an effort to unify international management of new technologies in the processing of commercial information. The Colombian law goes beyond the UNCITRAL Model Law in that it regulates electronic signatures, certification of same and certification entities and procedures.
Briefly, the Colombian law is broken down into three parts, as follows:
- 1. A general section, including chapters on definitions, legal effects of EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) and the communication of electronic data.
- 2. A second section covers e-commerce in relation to the transport of goods.
- These first two sections are, largely, a reproduction of the UNCITRAL Model Law and have only minor variations as to how articles are compiled and numbered and cover certain issues relative to internal legislation.
- 3. A final section of the law covers digital signatures, certification of same and certification entities. The purpose of this final section is to create a legal environment whereby a digital (as opposed to manuscript) signature will be the unequivocal sign that a specific person has originated a message and that, hence that message has legal effects for, and before, the originator of the message. To that end, extensive regulation of the certification of digital signatures is made, as a means to guarantee the originator's identity.
Steps being taken by the Colombian Congress represent a valuable effort to adapt internal legislation to new technologies and speed the commercial process, a situation that will surely translate itself into lower operating costs and increased efficiency meaning increased profits for doing business in Colombia. The law is a significant departure from existing civil, commercial and procedural law in that it relaxes sometimes cumbersome and needless formalities in commercial documentation.
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