Are Electronic Signatures Legal and Binding in Australia?

Are Electronic Signatures Legal in Australia?

E-signature is now a widely accepted form of finalizing an agreement. As companies and countries alike work to become more quick, streamlined, and connected, working digitally is one of the key ways of doing this. The Electronic Transactions Act 1999 (ETA) in Australia was the government’s commitment to providing online availability where possible, and ensuring electronic signatures are considered valid in the eyes of the law. Here are some of the essential things to know and consider in regards to the ETA.

What Are the Legal Requirements of the ETA?

The ETA is considered what is known to be a “permissive” or “minimalist” law, meaning that it is virtually an “anything goes” sort of law. In Australia, there are very few laws governing the actual use of electronic signatures—they are simply accepted. Nearly all documents are permitted to be signed electronically.

There are some exceptions—the Act applies to all laws except for some specific exemptions outlined in the Electronic Transactions Regulations 2000. These include documents regarding migration and citizenship, wills, powers of attorney, and some real estate transactions in certain areas of the country. A typical business transaction, however, includes none of these restrictions, making e-signatures an acceptable execution.

When using e-signature, however, it’s important to keep in mind the few requirements enumerated in the law. The ETA requires that the parties signing a document are both in agreement to use e-signatures. Today, e-signature is so widely accepted, that most parties will not have an issue with using a tool to do so, but worst case, signing on paper and uploading that copy into a contract management platform will ensure the other party is satisfied with the signing but there is also a digital record of the interaction.

Modern e-signature tools have encoding and encryption for security, and platforms that track the source of the signature, identify the signee, and contain timestamps.

What is a Reliable E-Signature Contain?

In most countries, electronic signatures are classified in one of three ways:

  • Simple E-Signatures
  • Advanced E-Signatures
  • Qualified E-Signatures

Simple e-signatures include things such as the checkboxes ticked when purchasing an item online. They are not considered to hold much legal water, but they are valid under Australian law.

Advanced and qualified e-signatures are essentially the same thing, save that a qualified signature is a heightened version of an advanced signature. These types of e-signatures are easily traced back to their points of origin, heavily encrypted, and tightly secured.

These types of e-signatures are specifically linked to an identity and can easily be verified. Simple e-signatures do not necessarily have these features, and are therefore more difficult to verify.

While all types of e-signature are valid, certain scenarios or transactions need the security and tracking that advanced and qualified e-signatures provide.

How Can Concord Help?

Concord is global—with customers, servers, and support around the world. Since we are aware of electronic signature laws all around the world, we are also well equipped to provide software services for electronic signatures and contract management in the U.S., Europe, South America, and of course, Australia.

For companies to truly work as efficiently as possible with the security and compliance required, Concord’s platform has the infrastructure to ensure that e-signatures are aligned with Australian law.

To learn more about the United Kingdom e-signature validations, read our UK-specific piece here.