Regulating the Global Information Society

By Christopher T. Marsden | Go to book overview

4

Will electronic commerce change the law?

Towards a regulatory perspective based on competition, information and learning skills
Paul.Nihoul*The purpose of this chapter is not to analyse proposals currently under discussion regarding the regulation of e-commerce, in Europe or the United States. 1 My intention is rather to examine such proposals, in line with our conception of regulation. The question, in that regard, may be phrased as follows: what do these proposals tell us about the vision that we have about regulation, i.e. the rules which are adopted by authorities in order to ensure compatibility of economic activities with social values? The perspective is meant to help us understand how, and to what extent, regulation is being affected by the Information Society
A confrontation among actors
The basic idea is that human attitudes change with the Information Age. Our perspective has been influenced during a long period by an 'industrial' vision. Industrialisation is generally associated with labour and production organisation. However, industrialism also affected the law-the mechanisms which are used to ensure compliance with social values. The industrial vision of the law appears to be based on a 'macro-legal' attitude, where regulation is seen as:
1 a set of normative principles;
2 imposed by an authority;
3 expressing a project to be implemented by the members of society under a threat of a penalty.

That vision has led to a systematic confrontation among economic and social actors. One example may be taken from discussions surrounding e-commerce regulation. 2 In this debate, two positions are generally opposed. 3

First, the position adopted by businesses. As we know, businesses endeavour to minimise costs and maximise benefits. Such attitude is said to be necessary, as customers are to be attracted to collect the resources which will be necessary for the survival and the future development of the undertakings. In that context, regulations are regarded as burdens. As a result of the law, undertakings are to

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