Online contract is relatively a fast growing phenomenon in the world today and Cameroon in particular. Given the rapid growth of this form of contract, the need for regulation becomes all the more compelling. The rights and obligations of contracting parties, the legal aspects of online contracts, the use of digital signatures and other intricacies that are peculiar to online contracts still remains of utmost concern, since the parties concern needs legal protection from their defaulting partners. The ICT revolution has brought multiple direct and indirect impacts in almost every aspects of life be it socially, politically, economically and technologically. These impacts have in turn gone to change the whole pattern of our legal systems and most especially on aspects of contract. Furthermore, such technological advancement has not yet been domesticated, nor being well legislated, as well as introduced to the society. It would not be wrong to say to that, this has brought a number of impacts in contract principles. Most of the citizens entering into electronic contracts, have no prerequisite protection of the law and protection as consumers. These novelties have led to increasing legal uncertainties in the event of contractual disputes as most judges are unable to ascertain whether a contract concluded electronically is in tandem with the existing legal principles or not. The lack of knowledge about applicable law in the event infringement and disputes, jurisdiction, and other intricacies peculiar to online transactions is a call for concern.
In fact, the laws dealing with online contracts in general and e-commerce in particular are more or less those which support paper based transactions, and as such: there is always a great possibility that parties may not clearly address all the contract terms. On the other hand, online contracts may be challenged by the requirement of consent, that is, consensus ad idem. It may be difficult to ascertain consent if the parties in the online environment fully negotiated and gave their consent, especially in shrink-wrap and browse-wrap agreements. Information and Communication Technology might have created a significant and considerable gap and also have created a number of legal risks which traditional contract principles and laws might not be able to tackle. It is unanswerable as to whether there have been sufficient efforts taken by the government to address the challenges posed by ICT in contract formation and e-commerce development in Cameroon. Hitherto, a number of mechanisms have been put in place at the national, regional and international spheres. The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)[i] offers more flexibility relating measures of e-commerce, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and some regional jurisdictions such as the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other lofty measures have offered some form of solutions to address some concerns of online contract. It should be mentioned that in spite of all these resolutions and measures aimed at addressing some inherent concerns in online contracts, a number of these concerns still continue to thrive. This research is therefore predicated on these problems affecting the regulation of online contracts in Cameroon. There is a need for appropriate regulation of online contracts to solve the intricacies involved.
[i] United Nations Commission on International Trade Law known as the “UNCITRAL Model Law” 1996 provides uniformity to all laws as regards e-commerce. It should be noted that this model law serves only as a model for countries associated with the United Nations, and therefore stands as a suggestion for the associated countries to base their laws on Model Law of UNCITRAL which may be seen as the clearest and most flexible normative effort regarding e-commerce.