Student Article

Civil and Criminal Liability of Online Platform Providers under Omani Law

This student article is written by Jumana Al-Masroori and Fatema Al-Nuaimi, Law Students at Sultan Qaboos University College of Law, under the supervision of Dr Saleh Al-BarashdiThis article is part of a series of student articles published on Decree in collaboration with Sultan Qaboos University College of Law to showcase the legal academic writing of Omani law students.

The widespread of the internet had a major impact on the economy through the rapid process of digitalising services,[1] which consequently led online platforms to become a habitat to numerous online transactions,[2] as such platforms allow their service providers to expand across borders and supply various markets.[3] Online platform providers can be defined as “a mediating entity operating in two or multi sided markets, which uses the internet to enable direct interactions between two or more distinct but interdependent groups of users.”[4] This article will cover the different kinds of legal liability to which platform providers may be subject to.

Oman has a wide variety of legal instruments that govern the activities of platform providers. In 2006, Oman established the Information Technology Authority by Royal Decree 52/2006, to activate the government policy for digital transformation.[5] The Information Technology Authority took the lead to establish regulations for the online environment in the Sultanate, in order to give individuals, businesses, and government agencies a high level of trust in the process of conducting transactions online. Consequently, Oman issued the Electronic Transactions Law promulgated by Royal Decree 69/2008 and the Cybercrime Law promulgated by Royal Decree 12/2011. Later, as part of the restructuring of the Omani government, the Information Technology Authority was replaced by the Ministry of Technology and Communications by Royal Decree 63/2019 which was later also replaced by the Ministry of Transport, Communications, and Information Technology by Royal Decree 90/2020, which now has the responsibility for issuing the laws and regulations governing e-transactions in general and online platform providers in particular.

The liability of online platform providers can arise under the following two categories:

Civil Liability

Generally speaking, civil liability revolves around two mediums, either the tort that may fall on the person himself, his money, or his honour,[6] or a breach of the conditions of contract.[7]  The basis of this responsibility is traced back to the rule that “there is no liability where there is no harm or breach of a prescribed right.”[8] Accordingly, civil liability can be classified into tort liability and contractual liability[9] which has been codified in Omani law in articles 157 and 176(1) of the Civil Transactions Law.

In the context of tort, it is possible to hold online platform providers liable under tort when they illegally breach their responsibility to take appropriate precautions to protect the platform users, and the breach results in violation of the rights and interests of the users.[10] Furthermore, the Electronic Transactions Law states in article 35(1) that “If damage occurs as a result of the invalidity of the certificate or because it is defective due to a mistake or negligence[…], he shall be liable for the resulting damage […]”

In the context of contractual liability, online platform providers may be held contractually liable if they fail to perform a contractually agreed-upon obligation. This is arguably the easiest approach to seeking civil responsibility for the conduct of online platform providers who have signed contracts with an operator.[11] This is confirmed by article 14(4)(a) of the Electronic Transactions Law, which states that the provisions of article 14 do not prejudice any obligations arising from any contract.

Those liable under any of the civil liability provisions mentioned above can be made responsible for compensation in accordance with article 176 of the Civil Transactions Law. This is also confirmed in regard to consumers under the Consumer Protection Law.

Criminal Liability

Criminal matters in Oman are governed by the Basic Statute of the State, which states in article 26 that “There shall be no crime or punishment except by virtue of law. There shall be no punishment except for acts subsequent to the implementation of the law providing for them. The punishment shall be personal.” In this context, criminal liability refers to the bearer of a person’s responsibility for a crime that he committed, and this is obtained by complying with the penalty prescribed by law.[12]

Criminal penalties serve a dual purpose in society: they aim to both punish individuals for their criminal actions and deter others from engaging in similar unlawful behaviour while also safeguarding the overall safety of the community. In Oman, the legislative framework has taken proactive measures to address electronic crimes and the associated penalties through the enactment of specialised laws, such as the Cybercrime Law. Additionally, the Electronic Transactions Law dedicates a chapter that addresses criminal penalties arising from the unlawful actions of platform providers. For instance, article 52 stipulates penalties such as imprisonment or fines for activities like computer intrusion, system disruption, website tampering, or internet-related offences resulting in data disruption, theft, or misuse. These penalties are consequently applied to the actions of platform providers as well.


In conclusion, this article has discussed the different kinds of legal liability to which online platform providers may be subject to in Oman. The article first provided an overview of the legal framework governing online platforms in Oman, before discussing the two main areas of liability: civil liability and criminal liability. In the context of civil liability, the article explained that online platform providers may be held liable for tortious acts, such as negligence, or for breach of contract. In the context of criminal liability, the article explained that online platform providers may be held liable for offences such as computer intrusion, system disruption, and website tampering.

Jumana Al-Masroori
Law Student
College of Law
Sultan Qaboos University

Fatema Al-Nuaimi
Law Student
College of Law
Sultan Qaboos University

[1] A. Ojala, A. Rialp, N. Evers ‘ Extending the international new venture phenomenon to digital platform providers: A longitudinal case study’ (2018) 53 Journal of World Business, at page 725.

[2] Kurtz, C. et al. ‘Accountability of Platform Providers for Unlawful Personal Data Processing in Their Ecosystems-A Socio-Techno-Legal Analysis of Facebook and Apple’s Ios According to Gdpr’ (2022) Journal of Responsible Technology, at page 1.

[3] Ojala, Evers, Rialp, supra note 1, at page 725.

[4] D. Beverungen, D. Kundisch, N. Wunderlich ‘Transforming into a platform provider: strategic options for industrial smart service providers’ (2020) Emerald Journal, at page 513.

[5] H. Alsaqri ‘e-commerce law in the Sultanate of Oman, obstacles and challenges and ways to confront it’ (2018) Sultan Qaboos University, at page 75.

[6] N. AlTuhami ‘liability’ (1985) Arab Journal of Security Studies, at page 8.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] T. Yoshimasa ‘A theoretical perspective on the civil liability of online platform providers’ (2019) J.Japan.L. (48) at page 72.

[10] Yoshimasa, supra note 9, at page 73.

[11] Yoshimasa, supra note 9, at page 73.

[12] Z. AlBraiki ‘Criminal liability for misuse of modern means of communication’ (2015) Sultan Qaboos University at page 25.