Australia: E-Commerce Update

Last Updated: 15 January 2004

Article by Lesley Sutton, Partner and Nicole Wellington, Solicitor

This article includes:


  • Anti-spam Bill passes through Federal Parliament
  • Australia endorses WSIS action plan


  • EU publishes first report on its e-commerce law

Domain Names:

  • Comment invited on new community geographic domain names


  • Chocolate domain transferred to rightful owner

E-Commerce - Australia

Government bolsters information security

On 3 December 2003, the Hon Daryl Williams, Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Robert Hill, and the Attorney-General, the Hon Phillip Ruddock, issued a joint news release announcing the introduction of a new government information security initiative.

The 'OnSecure' website, developed by the National Office of the Information Economy and the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), provides government agencies with a facility to report information security incidents online rather than by mail or facsimile. According to the joint media release, the website will enable the DSD to deal with information security incidents in a more timely and effective manner.

The Government has also made available a public site,, which provides information security resource material to the general public. At the site, users can access material on e-security issues and advice on issues such as spam, viruses and fraud.

Anti-spam Bill passes through Federal Parliament

On 2 December 2003, the Hon Daryl Williams, Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, announced that the Government's Spam Bill had passed through Federal Parliament on that day.

The Spam Bill forms part of the Government's approach to combating spam that combines domestic legislation with international negotiation, public education, and the development of industry codes of practice and technical measures.

The Australian Communications Authority (ACA) welcomed the passage of the legislation. The Acting Chairman of the ACA, Dr Bob Horton, commented that the legislation will enable the ACA to regulate the e-marketing industry in the same way it deals with the telecommunications industry. The ACA has begun establishing a dedicated unit to enforce the new law. Its responsibilities will include working with industry to develop appropriate codes for registration, investigating spamming and ensuring code compliance.

The ACA will have the power to:

  • enforce undertakings by originators of commercial messages
  • issue formal warnings and court injunctions
  • issue infringement notices and fines in lieu of court proceedings, and
  • seek court imposed penalties.

Australia and Japan strengthen ICT and e-commerce relations

On 10 December 2003, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, the Hon Daryl Williams, and the Minister for Trade, Mark Vaile, announced that Australia and Japan had signed an agreement on an enhanced framework for cooperation in information and communications technology and e-commerce.

The new framework, an element of the broader Australia-Japan Trade and Economic Framework, addresses issues such as cross-border recognition of digital certificates, the promotion of trust and certainty in online transactions, the promotion of e-government and access to broadband services.

Australia endorses WSIS action plan

On 15 December 2003, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, the Hon Daryl Williams, announced that Australia and 175 other countries had endorsed a common vision and action plan for the future of the global information society.

Developed at the United Nation's World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) convened in Geneva between 10-12 December 2003, the Declaration of Principles and Action Plan are designed to assist governments, communities and the private sector to utilise information and communications technologies (ICT) to improve living standards. According to the Minister, the action plan serves to reinforce international efforts and policies to enhance cyber security and to manage spam.

Australia's delegation to the WSIS reaffirmed Australia's commitment to continue its use of ICTs to support developing countries, especially those in the Asia-Pacific region. The Virtual Colombo Plan, an initiative of the Australian Government and the World Bank, is an example of such efforts.

Both the WSIS action plan and the Australian Country Statement to the WSIS are available online by clicking on the respective links.

E-Commerce - International

International Telecommunication Union publish ICT rankings
On 19 November 2003, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) published the first global index to rank countries on the basis of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) access.

The Digital Access Index (Index) covers a total of 178 economies and thus presents a global picture of the state of ICT development. The Index uses eight variables to provide an overall country score for the nations surveyed. The areas examined include the availability of infrastructure, the affordability of access, educational level, quality of ICT services and internet usage.

The Index forms part of the ITU's 2003 edition of the World Telecommunication Development Report which has been made available to coincide with the World Summit on the Information Society convened in Geneva between 10-12 December 2003. The Index enables governments, international development agencies, non-governmental organisations and the private sector to gauge national conditions in ICT.

The Index is available online at the ITU website.

EU publishes first report on its e-commerce law

On 21 November 2003, the European Commission published the first report on the progress of the Electronic Commerce Directive (Directive) adopted in 2000. The Directive has been implemented in 12 Member States.

The Directive establishes a framework within the internal market for electronic commerce. In so doing, it provides consumers and businesses with legal certainty when transacting online. Both business-to-business and business-to-consumer information society services are addressed by the Directive which provides harmonised rules on issues such as the information online service providers must provide to users, commercial communications, electronic contracts and limitations of liability of intermediary service providers.

According to the report, the application of the Directive has had a 'substantial and positive effect'. Although e-commerce represents only about 1-2 per cent of retail sales in the EU, strong growth has been forecasted and it is estimated that 54 per cent of European internet users will shop online by 2006.

The full report is available online at the European Commission's website.

OECD secures new website

On 1 December 2003, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) launched a new website dedicated to combating threats to information systems and networks.

Announcing the launch, the OECD noted that the need to protect information security has been further necessitated following a year in which a record number of computer virus attacks transpired, including the 'Win32.Blaster' virus which is estimated to have caused US$2 billion worth of damage.

The new website,, provides information on initiatives taken in response to previous OECD recommendations and also serves as a portal to other websites concerned with creating a global culture of security.

UK statistics on e-commerce released

On 4 December 2003, the United Kingdom's Office for National Statistics published statistics entitled '2002 e-commerce survey of business: value of e-trading'.

The results show that online sales accounted for 1.2 per cent of sales by UK businesses. The majority of online sales were in the wholesale, retail, catering, travel and telecommunications sectors.

The full results of the survey are available online.

Domain Names

Comment invited on new community geographic domain names
On 1 December 2003, .au Domain Administration Limited (auDA) announced that it is seeking public feedback on the implementation of new second level domains (2LDs) for community use of Australian geographic domain names.

auDA had previously announced that it is to create eight 2LDs for Australian States and Territories. In order to ensure that the process is successful, auDA has established a National Reference Group, comprising representatives of Commonwealth, State and local governments, the Committee for Geographical Names in Australia, and the general community.

auDA encourages comment on the two papers it has now released for public comment and expects that local businesses, tourism operators, special interest groups and managers of cultural events will be interested in the developments.

The papers are available online at the auDA website. The closing date for submissions is 10 January 2004.

New 'At-Large Structures' receive certification
On 16 December 2003, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced that six organisations in three geographic regions had received 'At-Large Structure' certification.

Certification recognises that a particular group has met ICANN's criteria for involving individual internet users at the local or issue level in ICAAN activities and for promoting individuals' understanding of, and participation in, ICANN. ICANN's At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) is responsible for certifying applicant organisations and encouraging applications from interested and qualified groups. According to the chair of the ALAC, these groups engage geographically and professionally diverse communities of individual internet users in ICANN activities that affect people's use of the internet.

A list of the recently certified groups is available online at the ICANN website.


Chocolate world transferred to rightful owner

On 1 December 2003, Sole Panelist, J. Nelson Landry, of the World Intellectual Property Organisation's (WIPO) Arbitration and Mediation Center delivered his decision in Hershey Foods Corporation and Hershey Chocolate & Confectionery Corporation v DRP Services (Hersheychocolateworld-Com-Dom), WIPO Case No. D2003-0841.

Hershey Food Corporation and Hershey Chocolate & Confectionary Corporation (Hershey), the operators of a large chocolate production facility, objected to the registration of the domain name '' by an Israeli-based firm. Hershey maintains a website at the '' domain name, where it provides information about its Chocolate World Visitor Center which attracts over 2.6 million visitors annually. Hershey's concerns centred on the similarity between its numerous registered trademarks and domain name and the domain name registered by the respondent.

The Panelist had no difficulty in finding that the domain name in question was confusingly similar to Hershey's trademarks. The deletion of the letter 's' in the respondent's domain name did not deter from the similarity. Furthermore, the fact that the domain name was being used solely to divert internet users to link to websites offering products of Hershey's competitors, gambling casino services and pornography, indicated that the respondent did not have any rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. Mr Landry asserted that the respondent could not have had no knowledge of Hershey's well-known trademarks, some of which had been registered for nearly a century. As such, it was held that the domain name had been registered in bad faith.

Accordingly, having satisfied the elements of the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy, it was ordered that the domain name be transferred to Hershey.

This article provides a summary only of the subject matter covered, without the assumption of a duty of care by Freehills or Freehills Carter Smith Beadle. The summary is not intended to be nor should it be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other professional advice.

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