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Tunisia during Covid-19: Economical digital transformation or law enforcement?

  • Tunisia
  • Regulatory investigations and enforcement
  • Technology

29-04-2020

Attempts at digital transformation, which have sometimes been slow in Tunisia, are now forced and obliged to succeed in order to guarantee continuity of work, economy and even life during the country's lockdown.

The digital transformation is a strong support to the economy as a whole, we are talking about digital economy, electronic economy, new technologies, new economy, TIC, etc.

The very slow progress of the Economic transformation has been faced with a situation that requires an unprecedented acceleration in digital transformation and particularly in e-commerce.

First, the question that shall be asked: what is the legal framework of the digital economy?

The digital economy is defined as the global network of economic and social activities that are activated by platforms such as the Internet, mobile and sensor networks, including e-commerce. Activated also by efforts to achieve efficiency and productivity in production processes, inventory and knowledge management.

Within the context of the digital economy, Tunisia has adopted a regulatory framework representing a legal infrastructure related to electronic commerce, namely law 2000-83 of August 9- 2000, related to electronic exchanges and trade.

Furthermore, currently, there is a draft of a Digital Code awaiting the vote in parliament. The draft of the new Tunisian Digital Code aims at updating the telecommunications code promulgated by law n°2001-1 of January 15- 2001 as supplemented by law n°2002-46 of May 7-2002 so as to adapt it to the new realities and requirements of the sector, with the aim of a better quality of the networks, better compatibility with international standards, better conditions for digital competitiveness, better guarantees for future investors, whether Tunisian or foreign, to encourage the creation of companies specializing in the various areas of the sector.

However, the legislation that does not meet current technological requirements, the limited culture of e-commerce and the spread of e-commerce platforms have significantly contributed to curb the digital economy in Tunisia.

The measures adopted by the State to implement the total containment of the country have led to an explosion of e-commerce platforms in the face of the need created by the Covid-19 crisis.

Therefore, the launch of E-commerce platforms in record time has helped the State to implement health measures but has resulted in partial enforcement of the law.

In fact, law 2000-83 of august 9- 2000, related to electronic exchanges and trade provides that “Prior to the conclusion of the contract, the seller is obliged in electronic business transactions to provide the consumer with the following information in a clear and comprehensible manner:

  • The identity, address and telephone number of the seller or service provider;
  • A complete description of the different steps in the execution of the transaction;
  • The nature, characteristics and price of the product;
  • The cost of delivery, product insurance rates and taxes required;
  • The length of time the product is offered at the fixed prices;
  • The conditions of commercial guarantees and after-sales service;
  • The terms and procedures for payment and, where applicable, the proposed credit terms;
  • The terms and deadlines for delivery, the performance of the contract and the results of non-performance of the commitments;
  • The possibility of retraction and its deadline;
  • The order confirmation mode;
  • The method of returning the product, exchange or refund;
  • The cost of using telecommunications facilities when they are calculated on a basis other than the current rates;
  • The conditions for terminating the contract when it is concluded for an indefinite period or for a duration more than a year;
  • The minimum duration of the contract, for supply contracts, whether long-term or periodic, of a product or service.

This information must be provided by electronic means and made available to the consumer in order to consultation at all stages of the transaction”

The above-mentioned conditions are clearly not all met. However, the imperatives of the current health situation mean that the State is supporting the e-Economic transformation which is taking place without requiring the full and strict application of the law in force.

This balance between the spread of e-commerce platforms which has a major impact on the e-Economic transformation and the strict application of the law would demonstrate that the current legislation would need updating to push the digital transformation but also an update allowing the enforcement of the provisions of the laws in force to protect the e-consumer.

The protection of the e-consumer is required in order to create a climate of confidence that will have a significant impact on the digital transformation.

The enforcement of the law has very often depended on a National Authority/Instance ensuring the supervision and even the sanctioning of offenses, as is the case, for example, for the protection of personal data, which the National Personal Data Protection Authority "INPDP” ensures that the relevant provisions of the law are enforced.

Regarding the e-Commerce transactions, it is highly recommended to ensure the application of the law 2000-83 of august 9- 2000, related to electronic exchanges and trade by extending, for example, the missions of the National Communications Authority “INT” and/or extending the missions of the National Consumer Protection Council by updating the law n° 92-117 of 7 December 1992 on Consumer Protection to include the protection of e-consumers and e-contracts through the regulation of the transaction between the e-merchant and the e-consumer.

Lastly, enacting laws that meet today's digital requirements is paramount to ensure digital and economic transformation, however, their effectiveness depends on their strict enforcement even in times of crisis. 

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