Promoting greater usage of electronic contracts and electronic signatures under Australian law

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Parties are increasingly entering into transactions and contracts electronically (whether by typing their names on documents via emails, signing with a stylus on a tablet, clicking a click to accept button within a computer browser, or electronic signing via a cloud platform such as DocuSign eSignature).

These methods are accepted by businesses and Australian courts alike as a valid, secure and efficient way of doing business in Australia.

While Australian law generally and broadly recognises that contracts can be reliably signed by electronic means, there currently are specific areas where particular uncertainties remain: signing deeds, signing by companies and witnessing. Such uncertainties in these areas largely arise because the law unfortunately has not kept pace with the progress of technology.  Many of the rules around signatures were created when contracts were signed on paper (eg "wet" signatures). Such rules continue to apply despite significant technological advances that provide for signatures to be even more reliable and secure through electronic means. These uncertainties impact the use of electronic signatures by imposing certain unnecessary additional costs and delays in doing business by requiring parties to sign contracts the old-fashioned way, with paper and ink.

This article outlines these very specific areas where uncertainties remain that negatively impact everyday business and how the Australian legal framework can be clarified in a simple manner to allow contracts to be entered into with electronic signatures  onsistently with the otherwise ubiquitous approach of electronic signatures in Australian's digital economy.

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Promoting greater usage of electronic contracts and electronic signatures under Australian law


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