Determination of a contract term under Vietnamese Civil Code 2015

Commonly, a contract would contain a clause defining the effective term of such contract (thời hạn có hiệu lực của hợp đồng). In such clause, the moments the contract take effect and cease to have effect are determined, whether by a certain period or an occurrence. Nonetheless, the Civil Code 2015 does not have any provisions on the “term” of contracts. Instead, the Civil Code 2015 has separate provisions for (i) the term or time-limit, and (ii) the moment when a contract takes effect and the circumstances where a contract is terminated.

Under the Civil Code 2015, by default, the commencement of a term by reference to an event would start on the day immediately following the date of such event but not the date of the event itself. Therefore, if the term of a contract is defined to commence on the signing date, the contract would actually take effect on the day after, which might not be what the parties intended. Due to this, a contract could be effective on the signing date if (1) so provided by law or (2) the parties agreed on a different method for calculating a term.

Regarding (1), one might argue that the provisions specific to contracts under the Civil Code 2015 should be deemed as a “different regulations” of the law. According to Article 401.1 of the Civil Code 2015, the commencement of the term of the contract would be the moment such contract is executed or otherwise agreed by the parties. However, Article 401.1 of the Civil Code 2015 also provides an exemption of “otherwise provided by relevant law”, which could cause a confusion as to which provision would prevail to govern the term of a contract.

Regarding (2), as mentioned above, the parties can agree on a different method for calculating a time-limit, which could resolve the confusion in case both provisions are applied to govern a term of a contract. For example: “The term of this Agreement shall be 2 years from the signing date of this Agreement inclusive.” In this example, the parties agree that the signing date would also count towards the term of the Agreement, which arguably could be considered as an agreement on a different method for calculating the term of the Agreement.

This post is contributed by Le Thanh Nhat, a trainee at Venture North Law.

Vietnam’s New Cybersecurity Law 2018

A new Law on Cybersecurity (Luật an ninh mạng) (the CSL 2018) will come into effect from 1 January 2019 in Vietnam. Not only providing measures to secure the cyber-environment which to some extent has been regulated by the Law on Cyber-information Safety dated 19 November 2015, the CSL 2018 also includes various provisions to control the contents posted or published on the cyber-network. Below are some salient issues of the CSL 2018.

Scope of the CSL 2018

The CSL 2018 applies to all agencies, organizations and individuals involving in the protection of cybersecurity, which is broadly defined as the assurance that activities in cyberspace not causing harm to the national security, social order and safety, lawful rights and interests of agencies, organizations and individuals. In particular, the CSL 2018 will apply to overseas organisations, which have users residing in Vietnam such as Google or Facebook.

The CSL 2018 covers all networks of IT infrastructure, telecommunication, Internet, computer systems, databases, information processing, storage and controlling systems, and regulates activities of every enterprise providing services in cyberspace and Internet users including e-commerce, websites, online forums, social networking and blogs.

Operators of information system (Chủ quản hệ thống thông tin)

The CSL 2018 imposes various obligations on an operator of an information system. Under the  Law on Cyber-information Safety according to which, an operators of information systems means any agencies, organizations or individuals having directly managing authority to an information system.

LAWYER’S CRIMINAL LIABLITY FOR FAILURE TO REPORT CRIMES COMMITTED BY A CORPORATION IN VIETNAM

Under Article 19.3 of the Penal Code 2015 of Vietnam, if a defender (người bào chữa), in the course of defending for an accused person, has knowledge of a crime that was committed or has been committed or is under the process of preparation by such person, the defender will not bear criminal liability for failure to report such crimes to the authorities unless such crimes are extremely serious crimes or crimes relating to the national security. This appears to be a watered-down version of the attorney-client privilege in other jurisdictions. The previous Penal Code 1999 does not clearly exempt a defender from criminal liability for failure to report crimes. The exemption for a defender under Article 19.3 is first introduced in the Penal Code 2015. When applying Article 19.3 in the context of corporate criminal liability, one should take note of the followings:

  • A defender is defined as a person appointed by another person (an individual or a commercial legal person) who is alleged to commit a crime to defend him/her in accordance with Article 72 of the Criminal Proceedings Code 2015. A lawyer will become a defender when that lawyer is appointed in accordance with the proceedings (Appointed Time). Therefore, before the Appointed Time, a lawyer is not entitled to the privilege exemption of Article 19.3.
  • Whether before or after Appointed Time, a lawyer for a commercial legal person in a criminal case is not entitled to the privilege exemption of Article 19.3 in respect of the following crimes (1) smuggling, (2) manufacturing or trading counterfeit food or food additives, and (3) manufacturing or trading counterfeit medicines for treatment or prevention of diseases; and
  • Before the Appointed Time, lawyers may be subject to criminal liability for failure to report the following crimes if the lawyers have “clear knowledge” (biết rõ) of such crimes: (1) financing terrorism, (2) money laundering, (3) illegally trafficking goods or money across the border, (4) manufacturing or trading banned goods, (5) hoarding or, transporting banned goods, (6) manufacturing or trading counterfeit goods, (7) manufacturing or trading counterfeit food or food additives, (8) manufacturing or trading counterfeit medicines for treatment or prevention of disease, (9) manufacturing or trading counterfeit animal feeds, fertilizers, veterinary medicine, pesticides, plant varieties, animal breeds, (10) speculating, and (11) destructing forest.

This post is contributed by Tran Thi Ha Phuong, a legal intern at Venture North Law, and Ha Thi Dung, a partner at Venture North Law.

Confidentiality obligations of a lawyer in Vietnam

Lawyers in Vietnam are subject to the following confidentiality obligation with his/her clients including:

  • A lawyer is prohibited from disclosing information on cases, matters, clients that the lawyer has knowledge in the course of practicing except otherwise agreed by the clients or otherwise provided at law (e.g., the Penal Code 2015). Since this rule is carved out by “otherwise provided at law”, a lawyer cannot invoke this rule to avoid the request of providing information or testifying against his/her client in a criminal case;
  • A lawyer must not use information on cases, matters, clients that the lawyer has knowledge in the course of practicing for purpose of violating benefits of the State, public benefits, lawful rights and benefits of organization, individuals, and agencies;
  • A law firm must procure its lawyers and staffs not to disclose information on its cases, matters, clients; and
  • Under Article 73.2 of the Criminal Proceedings Code 2015, a defense lawyer must not disclose information on a case or an offender that the defense lawyer has knowledge in the course of defending for the offender except otherwise agreed in writing by the offender and must not use such information for purpose of violating benefits of the State, public benefits, lawful rights and benefits of organization, individuals, and agencies. A defense lawyer may invoke this privilege to deny providing information or testifying against his/her client but it is not clear whether this privilege can protect him/her from a criminal charge for failure to report extremely serious crimes or crimes which fall within Chapter XIII (crimes relating to the national security) if such case is established.

A lawyer in Vietnam is required to practice either in a law firm or in his/her own personal capacity. Therefore, technically, an in-house lawyer working for a corporation may not be regarded as a lawyer.

This post is contributed by Tran Thi Ha Phuong, a legal intern at Venture North Law, and Ha Thi Dung, a partner at Venture North Law.