The determination of the Irish government to ensure that Ireland is well positioned to act as a hub for e-commerce business was evidenced in the publication on April 7 of the Electronic Commerce Bill 2000 (the eBill). The government has announced its intention to fast track the eBill through the legislative process with the intention of its becoming law as soon as possible. The eBill made swift progress through the Irish Senate which passed the eBill on April 19. It is expected to receive its next reading in the Irish parliament on May 23.
The eBill will implement the EU electronic signatures directive in Ireland. Many of the provisions of the eBill also closely follow the EU electronic commerce directive.
The key features of the eBill include the following:
- legal recognition and non-discrimination in respect of electronic signatures, electronic writing, electronic originals, electronic retention and production of information, electronic contracts and electronic sealing;
- a proposed scheme of voluntary accreditation of certification service providers (CSPs) and provisions regarding the liability of CSPs; and
- the ability of the minister for public enterprise, in consultation with the minister for enterprise, trade and employment, to make regulations concerning the use of the ".ie" domain name.
Through the early introduction and implementation of e-commerce legislation, the Irish government hopes to build on Ireland's reputation as a prime location for technology and financial services-related business.
Investment funds – Central Bank approves use of prime brokers by Irish funds
The publication by the Central Bank of Ireland of new guidelines in relation to the use by Irish investment funds of prime brokers has effectively overcome restrictions which placed Ireland at a disadvantage as a location for the establishment of hedge funds.
Previously, Irish authorized funds wishing to enter into full scale prime brokerage relationships experienced difficulties in relation to re-hypothecation and custody of assets, as the provisions of most prime brokerage agreements were seen to be in conflict with the Central Bank of Ireland's safe custody rules. The publication of the guidelines will enable Irish funds to overcome these difficulties. Irish funds targeted at professional or institutional investors and high net worth individuals will now be able to use full-scale prime brokerage services.
While the use of prime brokers is subject to certain conditions under the guidelines, leading prime brokers have confirmed that these conditions will not present a difficulty for them and that compliance with the guidelines should not impact the cost of prime brokerage services to Irish funds. The introduction of the guidelines is a result of co-operation between the Central Bank and the Irish funds industry.