Global e-commerce treaty stalls

by Canadian Shipper

Since 1999, the Hague Convention on Jurisdiction, formed to make civil judgements enforceable across borders, has been dealing with the issue of how business-consumer disputes should be settled. Its head U.S. negotiator says the treaty won’t be finished until business and consumer groups can come to an agreement. Negotiators will meet in Ottawa on Feb. 26, and formal talks will resume in The Hague in June. But final negotiations have not been scheduled.

The Hague Convention on Jurisdiction began its work in 1996, but talks came to a halt in the fall of 1999.

Online sales are expected to grow exponentially over the next few years and with international transactions becoming more and more routine, disputes about them are likely to become more frequent.

Business and consumer groups both recognize the need to establish ground rules for resolving these disputes, but the two groups have been unable to agree on those rules.

A key sticking point is a clause in the current draft that would enable consumers to sue businesses without leaving their home jurisdiction. E-commerce groups say the language in the clause is too vague, and could possibly require any company that wants to do business online to take into consideration the varying laws and cultural traditions of many countries.

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