On 23 January 2023, the Commonwealth Attorney General opened the platform for submissions from the public on the operation of, and the potential for any future reforms to, the Electronic Transactions Act 1999 (Cth) (ETA).
What is the ETA?
The ETA is an Australian legal instrument which allows electronic transactions to validly occur. In brief, it establishes that any legal requirement to sign, send or record written information or documents can generally take place using electronic mechanisms. Of course, the ETA contains certain provisions which operate to ensure the validity and authenticity of the transaction in such circumstances.
In September 2021, the Deregulation Taskforce published the Modernising Document Execution (MDE) consultation paper.
The MDE consultation paper is centred on policy settings around statutory declarations and deeds, and investigates potential approaches for the permanent electronic execution of documents.
Respondents to the MDE consultation paper brought to light other issues with the ETA, such as:
- uncertainty around the ETA ‘consent’ requirements;
- inconsistency between Commonwealth, state and territory laws;
- difficulties with understanding the way government agencies can ‘exempt’ the ETA; and
- how electronic signatures can be verified and electronic records kept.
Why is the ETA significant?
As the digital economy grows, particularly with reference to the ETA, it is pivotal that the public keep up to date with its function and operation. The government identified the importance of it being aware of any concerns or issues felt by the public as to the use of the ETA.
As such, the government is seeking public views on the ETA and how it operates in practice.
What is the purpose of the consultation?
The aim of the Attorney General in authorising the consultation is to facilitate an ongoing discussion on the ETA, including any challenges within its application.
Feedback received will be taken into consideration in the following areas:
- informing any future reform processes;
- providing direction on how digital best practice ought to be applied;
- improving understanding of the ETA legal framework; and
- creating a practical resource to assist in all future amendments and additions to the ETA.
The consultation closes on 20 March 2023.
Have your say by making a submission here.
If you have any questions about this article, please get in touch with an author or any member of our Corporate & Commercial team.
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