The Ghanaian Business environment, like the rest of the world, is seeing a great change in the way transactions are conducted. Today, even traditional businesses are incorporating some elements of electronic activity to help bring some efficiency.
As this is a new phenomenon affecting personal and business lives, there is a need to ensure that players know their rights and responsibilities within the e-transaction ecosystem. The term ‘electronic’ has been misunderstood by many over the years. Here is a definition by the framers of the model law by the Commonwealth Secretariat:
‘Electronic’ includes created, recorded, transmitted or stored in digital or other intangible form by electronic, magnetic, optical or by any other means that has capabilities for creation, recording, transmission or storage similar to those means.
The following article is an extract from the Model Electronic Transaction Law by the Commonwealth Secretariat:
In this era of electronic transactions all around us, it is very important to acknowledge and abreast ourselves with the basic laws that spell out our rights and responsibilities as we begin to do things electronically.
This model Law on Electronic transactions clearly agrees that there is need for a clear set of acceptable rules which should aim at removing legal obstacles and rather increasing the legal predictably of e-commerce.
Information shall not be denied validity just because it is in electronic form. This, to my layman’s understanding, means even emails, WhatsApp messages and Facebook posts can be subjected to legal scrutiny. The same applies to any contract made and signed electronically.
This law has generally made provisions which ensure that parties involved in electronic transactions are protected. It is rather unfortunate that these provisions are not well understood or even enforced on our side of the digital economy today. I have always maintained that e-business is still business and must be treated as such, even though the means of transaction seem to differ.
Some Objects of the ACT
- Even though the Law encourages some requirements before one can have an electronic wallet, it insists that it should not be so rigid as opening a bank account. This, I assume, was to ensure an easier and faster adoption of the electronic means of money technology – seeing that it has a great potential to bring onboard even the unbanked population of a country.
- Framers of this ACT for sure envisaged that there is a possibility of people using the electronic transactions wrongly – just as in any business environment. This has been proven true, even in our own country here with the several mobile money fraud activities reported in recent times. Therefore, these rules and regulations will help address any mishaps which may occur.
- In previous articles about mobile money adoption, I have stated clearly that the mere message of convenience will not cut it in the long run. For a larger and more sustainable adoption, there is also a need to assure people that this means is as secure as the banks.
Consumers and merchants must have confidence in it to help engineer value additions on the platform.
Governance via electronic media
When government – which happens to be the biggest service provider – gets hooked up onto the electronic platform, who will decide to stay out?
According to this Model Law, government or any of its agencies which is empowered to create, collect, receive, store, transfer, distribute, publish, issue or otherwise deal with information and documents can do so electronically.
So, the likes of DVLA, Registrar-General’s Department, SSNIT etc. can electronically engage the citizenry in our quest to go electronic. Even though allowed, these agencies have a responsibility to ensure the integrity and privacy of any data they capture from citizens.
The Model Law has cautioned that as government engages the public electronically, the defined process must be a controlled one.
The procedure of capturing and storing should be properly structured so that all information captured is secured and kept confidential. The recent trend of leaked information all over the place makes me worry about how best government can protect information we share with it electronically.
With respect to electronic payment, which will certainly become part of the e-services government will be offering, the Model Law makes it clear that the Ministry of Finance should be the responsible authority to approve whichever platform suits the agency.
Protection for the e-Consumer
As a consumer in this new era of digital life and business, the Model Electronic transaction law makes a provision for you to be safe:
- The Law says that any person or entity engaged in selling goods or services online should provide accurate, clear and accessible information about their legal name, location address, and electronic contacts such as email, WhatsApp or telephone number.
So, the next time you want to patronise anything online, look out for the above-listed at least.
- Their description of whatever their selling online should be accurate enough for you as a consumer to make an informed decision either to buy or not.
This provision is very important for you as you buy items from the likes of Africakart.com, Jumia and Melcomonline. It is your right to reject any item that does not fully conform to the description that made your buy it.
- The seller of goods or services is mandated to make clear the terms and conditions about payment methods, charges if any, withdrawal, cancellations, return, exchange and refund policies.
These provisions are made to ensure that you confidently go about your digital life and do transactions feeling protected, just in case.