As The Bahamas Government moves closer to presenting e-commerce legislation to Parliament, the Ministry of Finance’s legal advisor is stressing the importance of monitoring international trends on e-commerce regulations. Electronic business is a function of globalised activity, and it is important to have a sufficiently harmonised framework in place to accommodate its growth in the world market.

It can be difficult or impossible to use electronic signatures in many cross-border transactions when certification authorities operate under different laws. According to attorney Rowena Bethel, the basic objective of any electronic authentication legislation is to ensure that electronic signatures are accorded appropriate legal recognition.

The United Nations is developing strategies to address the problem — e.g. the Model Law on Electronic Commerce. The European Union has drafted a directive on electronic signatures, seeking to create a uniform standard for member countries by January 2001, and the United States has a draft in circulation among regulators. The International Chamber of Commerce’s general guidelines draw on laws and practices in different countries.