When surfers start to shop: Internet commerce and contract law

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Authors: Brownsword, R. and Howells, G.

Journal: Legal Studies

Volume: 19

Issue: 3

Pages: 287-315

eISSN: 1748-121X

ISSN: 0261-3875

DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-121X.1999.tb00097.x

Given that the modern law of contract is geared to the protection of reasonable expectation, is this approach capable of extension to contracting in electronic environments, particularly to mass consumer contracting via the Internet? The position taken in this paper is that the gearing of the modern law is largely appropriate. Applying such a modern approach to the provision of dedicated legal regimes for electronic commerce, the principle of ‘medium neutrality’ puts electronic environments on the same footing as traditional contracting environments; and the principles of fair dealing developed for traditional consumer marketplaces are copied across to virtual shopping sites. Whilst we contend that a revolution in the technology of contracting does not imply a revolution in contractual principles, we accept that it will not always be straightforward for the law to implement or respond to the reasonable expectations of Internet contractors (particularly so where, as is increasingly the case, contractors from radically different cultures are connected by the Internet). © 1999 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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