Commentary

The recent stand-off between DoctorxDentist (“DXD”), the Ministry of Health (the “Ministry”), the Singapore Medical Association (the “SMA”) and the Singapore Medical Council (the “SMC”) raises, amongst other things, a novel issue of contract law.

Specifically, to what extent is one party bound by the terms and conditions applicable to a website, usually referred to as the “terms of use”.

In the Singapore Business Times report dated 23 November 2020 (the “Report”), it was reported as follows:

The SMC had asked DoctorxDentist, a medical review and consumer education website, to remove in full doctors listed on its platform for review, which it had taken from the SMC’s website without permission. This was to be done by Friday.

Under the SMC website’s terms of use, parties must get written permission from the SMC to reproduce, republish, upload, post, transmit or otherwise distribute materials found on SMC’s site.

(emphasis added)

The quoted portion of the Report brings to the fore an issue that, on first blush, appears deceptively simple. If a party is bound by a website’s terms of use, it follows, ipso facto, that an contract is formed between user and content provider pursuant to which any misuse of information may be enforced. There is no doubt that contracts may be concluded electronically: see Section 6 of the Electronic Transactions Act (Cap. 88).

The threshold question though is whether a contract may be said to have been formed between content user, on the one hand, and content provider, on the other.  

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