New Electronic Transactions Legislation

Australia is currently updating its laws governing e-commerce.

In February 2011 the Attorney-General the Hon Robert McClelland MP, introduced the Electronic Transactions Amendment Bill to ensure Australia’s electronic transactions legislation will be brought into line with recent advances in technology.

This was preceeded by extensive consultation dating back to 2008.  Queensland is set to soon pass amendments to its legislation with other States and Territories doing the same.

The changes would ensure that Australia’s laws are up to date for businesses operating in the digital economy, providing greater legal certainty and encouraging growth in domestic and international electronic contracting.

The Bill seeks to clarify that a contract can be formed via an automated system, addresses the uncertainty around a contracting party’s online location and also simplifies the process for determining which transactions or other laws may be exempt from the Act.

What does this mean for you?

Given that much business and banking activity is now conducted online either via email or websites (eg internet banking and retail purchases), the new amendments needed to reflect the changes to transactions for goods and services.

Now when consumers click ‘I accept’ after conducting a business transaction, the Bill confirms the action of forming a contract even though the contract is formed with an automated message system.

These amendments also mean that a contract can be formed by sending messages over a secure system that requires the other party to log in and retrieve the message – a form of communication that is more popular as concerns about email security grow.

When the new Bill is enacted it will update the existing Electronic Transactions Act 1999 to reflect internationally recognised standards for electronic commerce.

Once all the amendments are accepted in all jurisdictions, the Government will move to accede to the UN Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts.

Adopted by the General Assembly on November 23, 2005 the Convention aims to promote legal certainty and commercial predictability to international electronic trade.

It is the first UN Convention concerning the digital economy and 18 countries have already signed up.