Electronic Transaction Law of Oman: a Review

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In a move towards creating a suitable environment for secure electronic transactions, the Sultanate of Oman has issued the e-Transactions Law formalised by the Royal Decree 69/2008.

This is the first law for legalising electronic transactions in Oman which can be defined as any contract, agreement or communication in this regard to be fully or partially implemented by electronic means as electronic messages.

The formulation of this law begins a new era for Oman, where a truly e-enabled society evolves in the realisation of the digital society of Sultanate. It is a major milestone in the implementation of the national IT strategy by the Information Technology Authority (ITA) of Oman.

The e-transactions law consists of nine sections and combines 54 articles, developed and refined over a period of three years. ITA along with a few other government entities and a private law firm have compiled this law based on studies about the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines on the Protection of Privacy and Trans-border Flows of Personal Data, and e-laws of several countries like the USA, Europe, France, Ireland, Malaysia and Tunisia.

The e-transactions law of Oman legalises the use of digital signatures in electronic commerce and communications through letters, emails, etc. Organisations wishing to introduce digital signatures for their use must be approved by the Information Technology Authority through a formal process.

Dr. Salim Al Ruzaiqi, CEO of Information Technology Authority (ITA) has pointed out that one of the main purpose of this law is to facilitate electronic transactions which are vital to e-government and e-commerce applications in Oman. In order to support such transactions, any contract, agreement or communication carried by electronic means as electronic messages is considered legally valid through this law. It regulates the transfer of electronic data and messages through various electronic channels such as the Internet and control changes made to data.

For creating the regulatory environment, the law has strict penalties for anyone misusing electronic systems, the applications and the data resident in them by punishing criminal acts using electronic systems and data like hacking into computer systems, unauthorised capture or tampering of data, etc.

ITA is saying that through this law it aims to consolidate public trust in the safe use of e-transaction, messages and records while assuring adequate protection for privacy of data of individuals involved in such e-transactions.

Promotion of this law sets up unified rules, regulations, and standards of authenticating electronic messages and records. By building trust and security, it will reinforce the development of the e-transaction at the national, Gulf, and Arabic domain by using the

e-signature and e-transactions. The use of electronic signatures in electronic commerce set forth a common legal framework for electronic authentication over the Internet or other electronic media. It also will play a pivotal role in forming contracts, carrying out business; assisting people work together co-operatively and underpin many forms of electronic collaboration.

As a comprehensive law it gives credibility to electronic information sharing, while taking the issue of information and communication security to higher levels of authentication, integrity and privacy.

The law provides for encryption as a means to protect e-transactions in order to ensure confidentiality of information or data of the message, to verify the originator, and to prevent others from getting information or data messages so as not to reach the addressee or to corrupt them.

Government entities can now use electronic records and digital signatures in tendering systems; license request processing and taxation systems can also accept fees or any payments electronically.

Protection for adequate privacy in matters related to personal data held in computer systems and processes for enabling electronic transactions is assured by the new e-transactions law of Oman. The law rests the responsibility of protecting electronic systems and data on the entities that manage these electronic systems and the authorised entity that issues valid digital signatures.

The necessary regulations and decisions for the law, which will come into effect three months after its publication in the Government Gazette, would be issued by the Minister of Commerce and Industry.

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