Cabinet has approved the Principles for the Electronic Transactions and Electronic Commerce Bill, which was presented by the Minister of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services, Honourable Dr. Jenfan Muswere.
This bill seeks to achieve a number of objectives that are associated with electronic communications and e-commerce.
Firstly, it seeks to promote the legal certainty and enforceability of electronic transactions and electronic commerce. Secondly, the Bill seeks to grant legal recognition to electronic communications and writing. Thirdly, the Bill is to provide for the legal effect of electronic signatures and secure electronic signatures.
The Bill makes provision for the admissibility of electronic evidence in hearings and court proceedings, this is important because current Zimbabwean law of evidence is silent on the submission of electronic evidence.
The passing of the bill was explained by the Minister of Information,Publicity and Broadcasting Services Senator Monica Mutsvangwa during a Post Cabinet Media Briefing in Harare this Tuesday .
“The nation is being informed that the development of information communication technologies in cyberspace requires that the legal and policy environment be adapted to take into account the relevant changes. In particular, there is need for a holistic electronic transaction regulation regime in the face of the opening up of markets and movement of goods and services across borders, and growing incidences of scams and unfair practices, which leave the end-user at risk,” she said.
The bill will bridge the gap between laws created for paper based transactions and technological advancements.
“The Electronic Transactions and Electronic Commerce Bill will therefore first and foremost attune the country’s legal framework to technological changes by addressing the current deficiencies in most of the country’s existing laws, which were designed for paper-based transactions. The Bill will promote and advance the business environment in Zimbabwe by establishing a legislative framework that enables fair, accessible, responsible and sustainable online transacting. The Bill will, in whole or in part, consolidate and harmonise existing electronic transactions-related legislation, such as the Consumer Contracts Act [Chapter 8:03],” she added.
This Bill permits the formation of contracts through use of electronic communications.
This Bill makes it clear that a data message cannot be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely on the ground that it is in the form of an electronic communication.
Some legal actions still need to be executed on good old pen and paper. For example, the conveyance of immovable property or a contract for the transfer of any interest in immovable property.
This may be an attempt to reduce the likelihood of using electronic communications as a means of committing fraud. The Bill does not force anyone to accept or use e-transactions; however, a person’s conduct may infer an agreement to use or accept electronic communications.
The e-commerce aspect of the draft Bill requires each supplier to display information about themselves and their range of products and services. After the conclusion of an electronic transaction, the supplier must give the buyer an opportunity to review the electronic transaction.
This allows the buyer to correct any mistakes, or to withdraw from the transaction completely. A supplier has 30 days to supply the goods bought. Where the supplier has failed to supply goods within this 30-day period, the buyer can give a written notice requesting the cancellation of the order and return of the money used.
The draft Bill also gives the buyer a 7-day cooling off period, during this cooling off period the buyer can return the goods that he or she bought online, back to the supplier and get his or her money back. This is an attempt to address buyer’s remorse. This cooling off does not apply to goods like foodstuffs or software. The buyer is responsible for paying shipping costs involved in returning the goods back to the supplier.