August 1 2001 – The Panamanian President, Mireya Moscoso, signed into Law Bill Nø112 ‘which defines and regulates electronic documents and signatures, certification entities and exchange of electronic documents’.
The new law grants electronic documents and signatures the same validity as written documents, in order for merchants and users to be able to conduct online transactions in a reliable and efficient manner. One of the obstacles to true e-commerce transactions in Panama had been the requirement of written acceptance by users of terms and conditions under traditional Civil Law, in order for transactions to be enforceable in case of disputes. Local e-merchants had to rely on written waivers of claims from buyers or good faith. The law follows the guidelines of the UNCITRAL Model Law on E-Commerce, by regulating the concepts of electronic signatures and documents. It also grants the new Directorate of Electronic Commerce of the Ministry of Commerce, the authority to maintain an optional register of certification authorities (CA). CA’s that wish to register as such are subject to a number of requirements to ensure adequate financial and technical background of said entities.
The Panama E-commerce Law is the first of its kind in Central America and it is expected that it will open the doors to web hosting, call center and data center companies. In addition to traditional advantages such as a fully dollarized economy, lack of exchange restrictions and a preferential tax regime for information technology companies, Panama also is the hub where the Maya 1, Panamerican, Global Crossing and Arcos 1 underwater cables meet – which allows IT companies to deliver ‘the last mile’ of broadband Internet connectivity to their clients.