Law Society defends its rights over e-commerce regulations

The Law Society says it will fight any erosion of legal privilege in new e-commerce regulations. It has rejected proposals to allow client files to be opened on a warrant issued by a secretary of state, saying that this power should lie with the judiciary.

Michael Mathews, president of the Law Society, is adamant that client confidentiality must be guaranteed. “The Government must not have any additional powers to open or read files than they do now,” he says.

Responses to the Government's consultation paper, Building Confidence in Electronic Commerce, were due on Friday.

E-commerce lawyers say cash will be ploughed into the UK hi-tech industry – if it can be sure its intellectual property is safe.

Hewitson Becke & Shaw partner Ian Craig says raising IP awareness in the UK will attract foreign investment.

“At present, many risk having their ideas stolen,” he says. “Education in relation to IP and the process of identifying rights, making sure they are protected and then exploiting them is the key to launching a proper assault on Fortress America.”

Hewitson Becke & Shaw hosted an e-commerce conference in Cambridge last week. Jim Norton, director of the Cabinet Office's Performance and Innovations Unit e-commerce team, says government proposals recognise the need for a legal framework.

He says: “Trust is critical to the successful development of e-commerce. The extreme difficulty of gaining convictions in cases of internet hacking or fraud does not inspire such trust. Liability can also be unclear, particularly where the jurisdiction is not fully defined.”

“Consumers are living in a legal building site,” says partner Benno Heussen of German-based Heuking Kuhn Luer Heussen Wojtek.