Review of e-commerce legislation harmonization in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) [UNCTAD/DTL/STICT/2013/1]

Objectives of the Review

The current ASEAN/UNCTAD Review builds on the earlier achievements in ASEAN, and includes the following activities:

(a)  Taking stock of progress in the adoption and implementation of e-commerce laws in the 10 ASEAN countries;
(b)  Identifying remaining challenges to overcome in the implementation and enforcement of e-commerce laws;
(c)  Highlighting new legal and regulatory issues arising from evolving technologies and applications, such as cloud computing and mobile commerce;
(d)  Proposing recommendations for ASEAN to further harmonize e-commerce legislation.

The project has conducted two online surveys (one of ASEAN member country government representatives and one of ASEAN e-commerce businesses). A thorough desk review of laws and developments has also been undertaken to complement the survey results. An ASEAN/UNCTAD workshop on the Review of E-commerce Laws Harmonization in ASEAN was organized in Cebu, the Philippines from 10 to 11 November 2012. All 10 ASEAN member countries attended the workshop and shared information about developments in their countries. It was also attended by representatives from ASEC and UNCITRAL.

In October 2012 UNCTAD conducted two online surveys aimed at government officials and at the privacy sector, respectively. The government survey asked each country for a progress update on the drafting, implementation and enforcement of laws in six key areas. The survey also asked for information on challenges that each country faced in drafting, implementing and enforcing their laws (see annex 2). The private sector survey asked enterprises to list priority areas for law reform, and asked for information on key barriers to e-commerce in the region.

The surveys provided some valuable insights. The Government survey confirmed that there was a high level of law reform activity in ASEAN, with many countries drafting new laws or reviewing existing laws. The key drivers for updating laws included a desire to align with international developments, the need to facilitate electronic government activities and to keep up with new technology developments, especially electronic payments systems and cloud computing. Many countries in the survey reported that they faced challenges in enacting laws, due to a lack of skills and training for policy makers and legislators, combined with challenges in enforcing laws, such as funding constraints.

The survey of a small number of businesses in the region uncovered concerns about the potential for e-commerce laws to be too intrusive or burdensome for business. Respondents to the business survey expressed a strong interest in law reform, especially in the areas of e-payments and online taxation.