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Vietnam Debates New Draft Amended Law on Electronic Transactions

The Minister of Information and Communication (MIC), Nguyen Manh Hung, recently presented a legal draft to amend the Law on Electronic Transactions to the National Assembly (NA). The draft is made up of eight chapters and 58 articles. It was created in line with the nine policies specified in the governmental Resolution 152.

It expands the scope of the Law to include e-signatures, e-certificates, and the conversion between paper-based documentation and data messages. It also legally recognises electronic transactions and includes new cybersecurity and data security regulations. Hung noted that the introduction of e-certificates will act as a catalyst for the widespread use of electronic transactions in all sectors across the board.

The National Assembly’s review of the law

NA’s Science, Technology and Environment Committee agreed largely with the draft. According to the Chairman, Le Quang Huy, it worked consistently with free trade agreements of which the country is a member. However, the draft had not fully covered the notion of ‘data message’ specified by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law in 1996. Therefore, the draft will be revised to ensure its compatibility with international agreements.

Huy also concurred with expanding the legal scope but was concerned that the draft’s scope might not be comprehensive enough. He called for a revision of Article 2 to ensure no potential subjects would fall out of the scope. Regarding Articles 10 and 11, he asked for further clarification on the definition of ‘electronic document’ and the validity of data messages to ensure the articles accord with the Law on Notarisation.

He underscored Article 14, which requires an identity between paper-based documentation and their correspondent data messages, as a legal burden for commercial banks because the banks, in most cases, are not issuers or holders of the documentation. Article 14 also stipulates that data messages must be signed with e-signatures if their correspondent paper-based documentation has been signed manually. Huy believed such a stipulation would be impractical as it was not easy for banks to request additional e-signatures from their clients once they had signed their documentation manually.

Under Article 14, the conversion between paper-based documentation and data messages requires the signatures and seals of the converting organisations to be considered valid. Such a requirement was unnecessary and would add time to the process, according to Huy. The conversion from data messages into paper-based documentation is restricted to bank clients rather than banks themselves. He called for banks to be eligible for the conversion similarly to their clients.

Under its digital transformation strategy, the government is boosting the use of digital signatures and electronic documents. In June, the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) created the necessary legal framework for the authentication of electronic contracts (e-contracts) in the country. It has also granted operating licences to authenticators.

As OpenGov Asia reported, traditional contracts involve paper and printing and transfer costs. The paperless method could save around VND 30,000-VND 80,000 (US$ 1.3-US $3.5) on each contract. In contrast to traditional contracts, which cannot be authorised in the absence of signers, e-contracts can be signed anytime and anywhere, adding flexibility to the contract-making process, and saving time. Third parties, including banks and the authorities, can rely on the authenticated electronic versions of a contract to validate its origin, cutting time off the verification process and curbing forged documents.

The country has enjoyed success in its digital transformation efforts and is well-placed to be a significant digital destination in the region. To promote digital transformation and develop the digital economy, the Ministry of Information and Communications assessed and selected several digital platforms to participate in the SMEdx programme.

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