E-Commerce Legal Background
Singapore is one of the first countries to have introduced legislation to enable e-commerce, with the enactment of the Electronic Transaction Act 1998. The Act closely follows the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Commerce, and is drafted in such a way that government authorities can introduce electronic filing systems without amending other laws. It also allows public bodies to issue licences and permits electronically.
Singapore's aim is to be an international e-commerce hub. The Act aims to provide the legal framework necessary to ensure predictability, trust and certainty to allow e-commerce to flourish.
The Act provides a framework that clearly sets out the rights and obligations of parties in the course of e-commerce, as well as the legal aspects of electronic contracts, digital signatures, authentication and non-repudiation.
Under the Act, network service providers are not subject to criminal or civil liability for third-party material where the provider is merely the host of such material. The Evidence Act was, however, amended to allow electronic records to be used as evidence in court proceedings.
In the course of developing a Public Key Infrastructure, the Act provides for the appointment of a Controller of Certification Authorities. The Controller enables regulations to allow certification authorities (including foreign certification authorities) to be licensed under a voluntary regime, subject to strict licensing criteria including financial soundness and security controls.