The law protects you, but still beware when you buy online
As the volume of shopping we all do in bricks-and-mortar premises diminishes, replaced by the surge in online buying, many people leave themselves open to problems unique to internet activity — such as cybercrime, breaches of data privacy, and identity theft.
Addressing such issues has become a priority for governments worldwide, and Saudi Arabia is no exception. The Saudi government has started to introduce and implement new laws and procedures to combat these crimes.
For legal purposes, these transactions are defined as any exchange, correspondence, contract, or any other action concluded or executed in whole or in part by electronic means.
Saudi Arabia’s updated e-transactions law stipulates that online transactions are permitted only if an online trader is operating in accordance with the law.
Under the new laws, an online contract is considered legally valid so long as the parties to the contract are registered with the relevant official portal. In addition, an online commercial registration is considered valid for online dealing, so the rules apply to any commercial trading done via the internet.
Furthermore, an online trader’s electronic signature or online dealings are valid, even if their online commercial registration is not complete. In addition, all online commercial registrations, electronic signatures and online dealings are permitted, so long as the commercial trader has made the appropriate changes to the commercial registration. How the online commercial registration was created, how the online transaction was conducted and how the commercial entity has been identified are all taken into consideration when determining the legitimacy of an online transaction.
There are exceptions to the provisions of the e-transactions regulations. They include transactions related to personal status, and legal instruments relating to dispositions received on property. The regulations apply in these two cases only after approval has been obtained from the relevant authority for such transactions to be conducted electronically, in accordance with controls established by that authority in agreement with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.
The penalty for violating the law on e-transactions is a fine of up to SR5 million ($1.33 million), imprisonment for up to five years, or both.
These laws and more are the buildings blocks of a war against cybercrime. They are there to protect us as consumers, and give us the confidence to conduct our online transactions under the rule of law. Nevertheless, we all have a responsibility to engage in online activities with a high degree of vigilance and caution, never supplying our personal or financial details to entities that we cannot identify.
It is important that people know not only their rights, but also what those rights prohibit unscrupulous and dishonest online traders from doing.
Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif