On March 13 2000 France implemented EC Directive 1999/93 reforming the Civil Code and giving electronic documentation the same legal force as handwritten documents. This reform should ensure the legal force of transactions over the Internet.

However, technical improvements are still necessary to completely secure online transactions. On February 25 2000 the Tribunal de Grande Instance (TGI) in Paris sentenced Serge Humpich to 10 months in prison for breaking into the electronic data treatment system of GIE Cartes Bancaires, and for making fraudulent use of information and a counterfeit bank card. The justices rejected Humpich's assertion that he acted without fraudulent intent because he simply aimed to demonstrate that bank cards protected by microchips are not secure, and he succeeded in doing so. The TGI recalled that under French law, as soon as a person knowingly breaks the law, he or she is deemed to have acted with fraudulent intent.

This affair led to great upheaval. Bank cards protected by microchips had always been considered perfectly secure and Humpich showed that this was no longer the case. Consequently, in spite of statements made by Banque de France that were intended to reassure the public, GIE Cartes Bancaires and all other banks must now update and improve the whole bank card system in order to prove its reliability.

For further information on this topic please contact RaphaĆ«le Navelet-Noualhier at Jeantet et AssociĆ©s by telephone (+33 1 45 05 81 96) or by fax (+33 1 47 04 87 98) or by e-mail ([email protected]).

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