oa Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa - Contract formation: a comparative perspective on the Model Law on Electronic Commerce
The Internet is decentralised and self-regulatory. The use of modern means of communication, such as electronic mail, for the conduct of international trade transactions has been increasing rapidly and this trend is expected to continue in future. The exponential increase in international e-trade increases the need for legal recognition that the use of and reliance on electronic messages are valid and enforceable. This article examines firstly the background to the Model Law (ML) with reference to its objectives, scope, structure and approach. Reference is made to the basic provisions which seek to give legal recognition to on-line contracting. Core definitions from Chapter I of the ML and the articles of Chapter III that deal with the legal recognition of the formation and validity of contracts concluded electronically, and the time and place of dispatch and receipt of data messages are discussed. Thereafter, the extent to which these 'provisions have become the international norm is reviewed. The recent legislative reforms in the United States, Australia and Canada to accommodate developments in electronic contracting are discussed. Lastly, the approach followed in the South African Electronic Communications and Transactions Bill is considered.
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