This update highlights the main aspects of the Dubai Electronic Transactions and Commerce Law (2/2002), which is divided into eight chapters.
Chapter One contains definitions of the terms and expressions used in the law, outlines the law's objectives, lists exempted transactions and emphasizes the voluntary nature of the law's application.
The law provides for 'commercial reasonableness' in the facilitation of electronic commerce and the submission of electronic documents to government departments and institutions in the Emirate of Dubai. It thus aims to promote confidence in the security and accuracy of electronic transactions, messages and registers, and resolve uncertainties concerning signatures.
The law does not apply to documents that require attestation by public notaries or personal status transactions such as:
- marriages and divorces;
- wills; and
- ownership documents concerning immovable property (or transactions related to the sale and purchase of immovable property).
Under Article 5, the chairman of the Dubai Technology, E-commerce and Media Free-Zone Authority continues to have the power to make additions, deletions or amendments to the list of exempted transactions.
Chapter Two concerns electronic messages, registers and signatures. Under the law, electronic messages must not be denied legal effect, validity or enforceability solely on the grounds that they are in electronic format. Provided that the requirements of access and storage are satisfied, an electronic document or file will be regarded as equivalent to a written document. Further, the law recognizes electronic signatures and outlines the criteria according to which they shall be regarded as equivalent to handwritten signatures. The evidential value of electronic information should be assessed in light of the provisions of Article 12.
Chapter Three deals with the formation and validity of online contracts. A contract will not be invalid or unenforceable simply because it was formed through one or more electronic messages. Moreover, an online contract may be concluded between two or more automated electronic systems without personal intervention, and is afforded validity by virtue of Article 14.
Chapter Three also contains provisions governing the circumstances in which an addressee is entitled to (i) assume the identity of the sender of an electronic message, and (ii) act on that assumption. It provides guidelines as to the dispatch of electronic messages, with decisive factors in terms of the time and place of dispatch and receipt. Article 16 deals with the acknowledgement of receipts.
Chapter Four concerns secured electronic registers and signatures. Article 19 provides for the date when a register shall be considered to be a secured electronic register.
A signature shall be treated under Article 20 as a secured electronic signature if the identity and intention of the signer can be corroborated.
Chapter Five sets out provisions relating to certificates and authentication services. The law provides for the appointment of a controller of authentication services, whose main duties are to license, approve, monitor and oversee the activities of authentication service providers (ASPs).
Article 24 outlines the duties of ASPs as well as the regulatory elements of their business, while Article 26 sets out the criteria according to which foreign electronic certificates and signatures shall be recognized.
Chapter Six deals with governmental use of electronic registers. According to Article 27, government departments or institutions of the Emirate of Dubai may undertake the following activities electronically:
- approve the deposit, submission, creation or storage of documentation;
- issue any permit, licence, decision or approval;
- accept fees or any other payment; and
- put out tenders and receive bids in relation to government purchases.
The law contains enabling provisions allowing the government to enter into electronic transactions when it is ready to do so.
Chapter Seven lists penalties and crimes, ranging from fraudulent publication of a certificate to making false applications. Article 34 allows for the confiscation of any equipment used to commit a criminal act. Article 35 deals with the abandonment of criminal proceedings and settlements.
Chapter Eight contains miscellaneous provisions. Article 36 authorizes the chairman of Dubai Technology, E-commerce and Media Free-Zone Authority to exempt any individual or corporate body from some or all of the provisions of the law or its regulations. Under Article 37, the chairman is authorized to set up special courts or arbitration tribunals to decide cases and disputes related to the law's application. Under Article 38, the chairman shall issue the implementing regulations of the law.
Although the law lacks provisions dealing with issues such as privacy, jurisdiction, data protection, domain names and cybercrimes, it provides a sound foundation on which to build UAE e-commerce law. By establishing the legal framework for electronic transactions, the Dubai government is protecting the interests of companies throughout the world, encouraging them to do business in Dubai and giving them confidence to conduct e-commerce in the emirate. It is hoped that additional regulations will be implemented soon to cover other aspects of online activities. Indeed, a federal version of the law is currently being reviewed by a committee established by the Federal Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs.
For further information on this topic please contact Samer Qudah at Al Tamimi & Company by telephone (+971 4391 2444) or by fax (+971 4391 6864) or by email ([email protected]). The Al Tamimi & Company website can be accessed at www.tamimi.com and www.internetcitylaw.com.