Fine-Tuning Vietnam's Electronic Transactions Law To Promote Growth in E-Commerce

AuthorStephen E. Blythe
Journal of International Commercial Law and Technology
Vol. 9, No.4 (2014)
Fine-Tuning Vietnams Electronic Transactions
Law To Promote Growth in E-Commerce
Stephen E. Blythe
Professor of Accounting and Business Law,
College of Business Administration, Abu Dhabi University,
P.O. Box 59911, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Abstract: In the digital age, the E-signature has replaced the h andwritten signature.
Since 1995, there have been three generations of E-signature law: the first mandated use of
the digital signature, the second recognized the legal validity of all types of E -signatures,
and the third recognizes all types of E-signatures, but gives preferred status to the digital
signature. Vietnam’s Electronic Transactions Law (“ETL”), enacted in 2005, is third-
generation; it recognizes all types of E-signatures, but favors use of the digital signature.
Accreditation requirements are specified for Certification Authorities (“CA”), the issuers of
certificates and verifiers to third parties that a digital signature is that of a specific
subscriber. The CA is responsible for maintaining the security of information that it
receives from its subscribers. The CA must inform th e subscriber of any limitations on the
use of the certificate. If an accredited CA issues a qualified certificate, i t must meet more
stringent security requirements which can only be achieved with a digital signature. CA’s
must maintain a publicly-accessible repository of certificates and the public keys which
relying third parties can use t o decrypt a subscriber’s message. A CA may in cur legal
liability for publishing a certificate with inaccurate information or for not issuing a private
key to the subscriber corresponding to the public ke y in the repository. The ETL allows
certificates issued by CA’s in foreign countries to be r ecognized if the y provide sufficient
security. The author recommends that the following provisions be added to the ETL: (1)
consumer protections for E-commerce par ticipants; (2) several new computer crimes; (3)
information technology courts; (4) mandatory E-government; (5) explicit long-arm
jurisdiction; and (6) recognition of legal validity of electronic wills.
1. Introduction
Vietnam is a developing, mainly agrarian country that is moving from a centrally-planned economy to a
market economy.”1 More than 25% o f all Vietnamese now have access to the internet.2 As mo re and
more Vietnamese get online, E-commerce in Vietnam grows at an ever-expanding pace. In 2011, E-
commerce sales were only about $350 million, but during 2012 they spiked to $500 million; that’s a 43%
increase. And in 2015, the E-commerce market is forecast to be $2.5 billion, a 500% increase in only
three years.3
Despite these impressive numbers, E-commerce has been hampered by several factors: (a) the
preference of Vietnamese to use cash instead of credit cards in transactions, and the reluctance of
merchants to pay the 2% credit card fee; (b) more affluent persons in Vietnam are usually older and often
not computer-literate, and younger Vietnamese are often more computer-literate but have less money to
spend in E-commerce transactions; (c) wariness of many Vietnamese to purchase anything without seeing
and touching it;4 and (d) the failure of Vietnam’s E-commerce law to meet the needs of E-commerce
1 U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, “Vietnam: Country Specific Information,” 20 November
2012, p. 1;
2 U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA”), THE WORLD FACTBOOK, “Vietnam,” 7 January 2013, pp. 3, 15;
3 Anh-Minh Do, “E-Commerce in Vietnam: A Status Report,” Part 1, p. 1, ASIA E-COMMERCE, 13 December
2012; .
4 Id.

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