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9 Info. & Comm. Tech. L. 5 (2000)

handle is hein.journals/infctel9 and id is 1 raw text is: Information & Communications Technology Law, Vol. 9, No. 1, 2000
Internet Consumer Contracts and European Private
International Law
Department of Law, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester C04 3SQ, UK.
E-mail: stonp@essex.ac.uk
Private international law deals with three kinds of problem which may arise
where a dispute within the sphere of private law arises from a factual situation
which is connected with more than one country. Rules on direct judicial
jurisdiction determine which of the courts of the connected countries are
competent to entertain an action in respect of such a dispute. Choice of law rules
determine which of the connected laws should be applied in determining the
substance of such a dispute. Rules on the recognition and enforcement of foreign
judgments apply where the substance of such a dispute has been resolved by a
decision of a court of one country, and serve to determine what respect should
be accorded to the judgment by the courts of other countries.
As regards consumer contracts (and many other matters), all three problems
have long been addressed by harmonizing legislation at European Community
level. The Brussels Convention on Jurisdiction and the Enforcement of Judg-
ments in Civil and Commercial Matters (1968-96) regulates both direct judicial
jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in and between
the EC Member States, and the Lugano Convention on Jurisdiction and the
Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters (1988) in substance
extends the Brussels arrangements to Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. The
Rome Convention on the Law Applicable to Contractual Obligations (1980)
harmonizes the choice of law rules of the EC Member States in respect of
contracts. All these Conventions contain provisions dealing specifically with
consumer contracts, and follow a policy of the protecting the consumer, on the
assumption that he is in an economically weaker position and is less experienced
in legal matters than the supplier when entering into the contract.2
Firm proposals for the revision of the Brussels and Lugano Conventions were
made public in mid-1999. These envisage amendments to the provisions on
consumer contracts, but maintain the policy of protecting the consumer as the
weaker party. Their publication has given rise to anxiety on the part of
companies which are actually or potentially involved in electronic commerce-
that is, in marketing or supplying goods or services by means of the internet-
that the proposed changes relating to consumer contracts may adversely affect
the development of such activities.
These concerns3 arise from the realisation that, where a supplier established in
one Member State engages in electronic commerce with a consumer from
another Member State, it will be subject, in respect of actions brought by the

1360-0834 print/1469-8404 online/00/010005 -11 @ 2000 Taylor & Francis Ltd

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