Electronic Commerce

UNCITRAL has prepared a suite of legislative texts to enable and facilitate the use of electronic means to engage in commercial activities, which have been adopted in over 100 States. The most widely enacted text is the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Commerce (1996), which establishes rules for the equal treatment of electronic and paper-based information, as well as the legal recognition of electronic transactions and processes, based on the fundamental principles of non-discrimination against the use of electronic means, functional equivalence and technology neutrality. The UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Signatures (2001) provides additional rules on the use of electronic signatures.

The United Nations Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts (New York, 2005) builds on pre-existing UNCITRAL texts to offer the first treaty that provides legal certainty for electronic contracting in international trade.

Most recently, the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records (2017) applies the same principles to enable and facilitate the use in electronic form of transferable documents and instruments, such as bills of lading, bills of exchange, cheques, promissory notes and warehouse receipts.

In 2019, UNCITRAL approved the publication of Notes on the Main Issues of Cloud Computing Contracts, while continuing work towards a new instrument on the use and cross border recognition of electronic identity management services (IdM services) and authentication services (trust services).

Significant work in cooperation with other organizations has also been conducted in the field of legal aspects of single windows and paperless trade facilitation. The results of joint work with United Nations ESCAP in that field include the online Readiness Assessment Guide for Cross-Border Paperless Trade.

Recent advances in information and communications technology and the emergence of new technologies in digital trade pose new legal questions. Accordingly, UNCITRAL continues its efforts to legally enable emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, data transactions, digital platforms and digital assets, including in connection with other areas of work such as dispute resolution, security interests, insolvency and the international transport of goods, as well as, more generally, digital trade.