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An Analysis of the Adequacy of Current UK Legislation to Facilitate Business to Business E-Commerce Transactions (2008)

Business to Business E-Commerce Dissertation – The question of whether quotations and adverts constitute an offer capable of acceptance or simply an invitation to make an offer has been long established in English case law, but the advent of the Internet raises some interesting new issues. Partly these arise because of the novel methods of conveying the “offer” i.e. via a web site or email and partly it arises because more than ever before the medium of the Internet makes advertising instantaneously available across jurisdictional boundaries and therefore the rules governing this issue in foreign jurisdictions is of much greater importance. Taking first the web site. Most commercial web sites resemble an electronic magazine advert, with products and associated prices displayed.

It has been suggested that such offers constitute offers under English law, but the author believes this to be a misinterpretation resulting from a combination of reading early drafts of the European Union E-Commerce Directive, which did indeed imply that such sites constituted offers capable of acceptance, combined with a misunderstanding of the statutory position on contractual offers in other European states. In fact the products and prices contained on a web site fit well with the existing English Case law in cases such as Partridge v Crittenden regarding an advert in a magazine for Bramblefinch Cocks and Fisher v Bell regarding a display of flick-knives in a shop window with a price.

In both of these, admittedly criminal, cases the court found that advertising in a magazine with a price and displaying goods in a window with a price constituted an invitation to treat and not an offer. Although this interpretation is now well established in English law some slight uncertainty results from the Partridge v Crittenden case in which Lord Parker said obiter that “when one is dealing with advertisements and circulars, unless they indeed come from manufacturers, there is business sense in their being construed as invitations to treat and not offers for sale”.

This leaves open the question of whether advertisements on a web site or email circulars from manufacturers may be construed in certain circumstances as offers rather than invitations to treat. On balance however it seems safe to assume that adverts on web pages will normally be interpreted by the courts as being invitations to treat.

This paper therefore sets out to analyse the current state of the law in England and Wales as it relates to business to business electronic commerce, with reference to the EU and USA where appropriate. In particular this paper will review the law as it relates to Contract Formation, Choice of Law and Jurisdiction, Signatures and Payment with the purpose of assessing whether the current state of the law in these areas is adequate to facilitate business to business trade over the internet with legal certainty, or whether the law is inadequate or uncertain despite the legislation being recently updated, or because it has not been updated to take into account this change in trading method.


  • 10,000 words – 84 pages
  • Good use of literature
  • Well written throughout
  • Ideal for business law students

1. Introduction

2. Contract Formation
Offer or Invitation To Treat
Communication Of Acceptance – The Postal Rule
An End To Battle Of The Forms?
Acceptance By Computer
Uniform Rules
Contract Validity

3. Choice of Law and Jurisdiction

4. Electronic Signatures
Signatures In English Law – An Introduction
Forged Signatures
Eu Electronic Signatures Directive
Electronic Signatures In The Directive
Electronic Communications Act 2000
Advanced Electronic Signatures
Certification Service Providers
CPSs Liabilities
UNCITRAL

5. Payment Mechanisms For E-Commerce
Current Payment Mechanisms
Cash
Cheque
EFTPOS
Credit/Debit Cards
The Present Situation
Why The Need For Change?
User Limitation
Merchant Liability
Security
Transaction Costs
Privacy
Current Situation – Conclusion
Electronic Cash
EFTPOS Based Electronic Cash
True Electronic Cash
Security
Transaction Costs
User Limitation
Privacy
Fraudulent Use of Credit/Debit/EFTPOS Systems
Stolen Electronic Cash
Counterfeit Electronic Money
Issuing of Electronic Money
Financial Services and Markets Act 2000
The Electronic Money Institutions Directive

6. Conclusion

7. Bibliography

Business to Business E-Commerce Dissertation
Business to Business E-Commerce Dissertation

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