The Turkish High Planning Council has decided to accept the "e-Export Strategy and Action Plan (2018-2020)" ("Plan"), which was prepared by the Ministry of Trade (formerly known as the Ministry of Economy) ("Ministry"), with its decision numbered 2018/1 and dated January 31, 2018. This decision was published in the Official Gazette on February 6, 2018.

The primary aim and vision of the Plan is presented as raising awareness of e-exports throughout Turkey, taking into consideration its global economic potential. Within this framework, the Ministry of Trade brought together the relevant sector players and public institutions in order to develop a wide-ranging plan regarding the following: (i) regulation infrastructure, (ii) payment systems, (iii) logistics operations, and (iv) customs operations. With respect to the territorial analysis of global developments, geographic and cultural proximity, and market saturation, the authors of the Plan carefully examined and took inspiration from the payment preferences and customs procedures of leading countries and governmental organizations (including those from China, the United States of America, European Union, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, and Azerbaijan).

Taking into account the practices and efforts undertaken so far to extend e-commerce in Turkey (which started in 1997 and are still growing), the Plan encapsulates the general view of the sector by considering the Informatics Industry Association's ("Bilişim Sanayicileri Demeği" or "TÜBİSAD") study on the e-commerce market which is produced on 2016. According to this study, the market size of the e-commerce industry in Turkey is 24.7 billion Turkish Liras for the year 2015. Additionally, according to the estimations made by the Interbank Card Center ("Bankalararasi Kart Merkezi" or "BKM"), Turkey ranks 14th among countries with the highest number of internet users, with 46.2 million users in 2016. Thus, it was declared that participation in e-commerce is expanding due to the widespread internet infrastructure throughout Turkey, as well as the increase in link speeds and the growth of mobile phone usage.

As indicated in the Plan, the applicable legislations and the regulatory framework regarding e-commerce activities in Turkey include the following: (i) the Law No. 6563 on Electronic Commerce and its secondary legislations, (ii) the Data Protection Law No. 6698, the Consumer Protection Law No. 6502, (iii) the Law No. 6493 on Payment Services, Electronic Money and Payment Systems and Electronic Money Institutions, (iv) the Law No. 5651 on the Regulation of Broadcasts via the Internet and the Prevention of Crimes Committed through Such Broadcasts. Substantively, it is safe to say that there is already a functioning and effective legal framework with respect to e-commerce activities in Turkey.

In order to fulfill the aim and vision of the Plan, the Ministry has designated the following strategic aims:

  • Enhancing logistical capacity;
  • Enhancing customs procedures pursuant to the requirements of cross-border e- commerce;
  • Enabling product security and auditing capabilities with respect to cross-border e- commerce;
  • Enhancing the global competitiveness of domestic firms that carry out e-export activities;
  • Increasing the number of Turkish firms that carry out e-export activities;
  • Ensuring that micro entrepreneurs develop into e-exporters;
  • Participating in international collaborations aimed at enhancing e-export activities.

The Plan elaborates on each individual strategy by describing its rationale, necessary actions, responsible and relevant institutions, performance indicators, implementation steps which will be executed between the years 2018 and 2020. and providing a description. From a legal standpoint, the proposed actions that must be taken to implement the abovementioned strategies include: (i) enhancing legal infrastructures that will protect consumer rights with respect to products that are sold through e-commerce, (ii) providing trust seals to service providers and intermediary service providers for e-export activities, and (iii) establishing a website that catalogues the legal and administrative regulations of different countries in order to provide useful information about various marketplaces. With the objectives of the Plan in mind, it is expected that Turkey will implement certain legal arrangements in the forthcoming years.

This article was first published in Legal Insights Quarterly by ELIG Gürkaynak Attorneys-at-Law in September 2018. A link to the full Legal Insight Quarterly may be found here.