Irvine Puts Brakes on Blair Drive for Trade on the Internet
Byline: SIMON WALTERS
THE Lord Chancellor has been accused of wrecking Tony Blair's bid to help British business make a fortune by trading on the Internet.
Trade Secretary Stephen Byers is furious over new regulations approved by Derry Irvine which could make it impossible for thousands of UK firms to sell their goods in Europe over the Web.
The new rules mean any British company selling to a European customer from a website would have to comply with the consumer laws in all 15 EU nations - or face being sued in a foreign court.
Industry sources say the Lord Chancellor's department bungled because its officials do not understand industry and were conned by EU partners keen to undermine Britain's place as Europe's number one country for e-commerce.
The row comes only days after the Prime Minister launched a nationwide campaign to gear up companies for the potential offered by trading on the Internet. He said he wanted Britain to be 'the best place in the world to trade electronically by 2002'.
The change in the rules on e-commerce came when the EU updated the Brussels Convention, which covers regulations for trading between European countries.
Under the old rules, UK firms could only be prosecuted for faulty goods or services under our own consumer laws unless they were targeting a specific European country via a mail shot. But Internet adverts can be accessed anywhere in the world. …