The Ecuadorian Congress passed the Electronic Commerce, Electronic Signatures & Date Messages Law on April 17, 2002. The law seeks to regulate the increasing use of commerce and business conducted over the Internet in Ecuador while protecting the validity of contracts executed in electronic form.

This law, based on the UNCITRAL model, is broken into five principle sections.

The first section defines and regulates data messages and stipulates their legal implications. The law stipulates that electronic documents (as well as annexes and attachments thereto) have the same legal value as written paper documents. Confidentiality of text messages is protected under the law, which also provides sanctions for unauthorized use of electronic data. This law submits use of electronic data to the intellectual property laws of Ecuador.

Electronic signatures ("e-signatures") are defined and regulated by the second section of the law. This new code grants e-signatures the same legal significance as traditional written signatures. The duration of an e-signature is indefinite and is valid until voluntarily cancelled, the death or incapacitation of its owner, or revoked by court order.

The certification process of e-signatures is outlined in the third major subdivision of the law. Likewise, certification entities (both domestic and international) are also to be governed by the new code.

The forth section establishes that the Foreign Commerce & Investment Board will be designated to promote and diffuse electronic services and e-commerce in Ecuador. Similarly, the National Telecommunications Board will be in charge of authorizing, registering, and regulating information certification entities. Superintendence of Companies, in turn, will be responsible for overseeing the aforementioned governmental agencies.

Criminal sanctions for violating specific articles of the code are stipulated in the last subdivision of the law. These sanctions are aimed at deterring hackers and fraudulent use of electronic mechanisms.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.