Foreign Language Translation Services,
Online Contracts and

Ecommerce Translation Services in All Languages

Multilingual document translation services play an important role in ecommerce.  One of the biggest advantages of e-commerce in our multilingual world is that it allows one to buy and sell around the world – opening up new markets in nearly every country.  And although this is great for the consumer – and business – it does create many new legal questions. For example, when business is conducted between parties located in two different countries, which country’s laws apply is not always clear. This is why it is essential that before starting an e-commerce business, one fully consider the legal implications of international contract law.

Knowing which country’s laws apply is important, not only when a conflict arises, but also from the outset when drafting the contract. A contract that does not comply with the jurisdictions requirements could be ruled as not a valid contract and thus not enforceable. For example, many countries’ national laws require that all contracts be in the local language – even when both parties speak English. Thus, a foreign language translation is required. Some countries that have more than one official language will require contracts to be in both languages. For example, in Canada all commercial websites must be in both French and English, including the terms of service.

Similarly, many countries require that all contracts be in writing. Although most people think of this requirement as meaning verbal contracts will not be enforced, it also has implications for contracts done online. When a contract is completed electronically, it is not necessarily ‘in writing’ and thus could be held to be invalid.

To remedy issues like this some jurisdictions have implemented laws on electronic commerce that bring online agreements into the law of contracts. For example, the European Union has the EC Directive on Electronic Commerce that applies to all member countries.

According to the Directive, in general, when both parties are domiciled in an EU member state, the parties can then choose which country’s national laws apply to the contract and which country’s courts will have jurisdiction to deal with any disputes. Specifically concerning e-commerce, the Directive aims to remove obstacles to the use of e-commerce. Thus, EU members are obligated to ensure that their legal requirements applicable to the contractual process neither creates obstacles for the use of electronic contracts nor results in such contracts being deprived of legal effectiveness or validity on account of their having been made online.

Needless to say, numerous exceptions exist. For example, the Directive does not apply to contracts that create or transfer property, those that require the involvement of a public authority and those that pertain to areas of family law.

The Directive also sets out specific requirements applicable to creating a valid electronic contract, including:

  • Specific steps necessary to complete the contract
  • Clarification on where the contract will be stored and how the customer can access the contract
  • Technical means for identifying and correcting errors prior to placing the order
  • The foreign languages that the contact terms must be made available in.

Furthermore, the contractual terms and conditions must be available to the customer in a format that allows one to readily store and reproduce them. Once an order is placed, a business must acknowledge receipt of the order via electronic means without any unreasonable delay.

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