Electronic Transaction Act Consultation

Closes 20 Mar 2023

Opened 23 Jan 2023

Overview

How the ETA regulates e-commerce in Australia

When you sign a contract using an electronic signature, click 'I accept' on online T&Cs, or send an important document by email – how can you be sure that what you are doing is legally valid?

The Electronic Transactions Act 1999 (Cth) (ETA) is an Australian law which lets valid electronic transactions take place. Simply put – it says that any legal requirement to sign, send or record written information or documents, can generally be done using electronic tools, so long as certain steps are taken to ensure validity, authenticity and access.

This gives Australians greater certainty to communicate and do business electronically – while also protecting consumers from unjust outcomes.

A background to this consultation

In 2021, the Deregulation Taskforce published the Modernising Document Execution (MDE) consultation paper, which focused on execution requirements for special documents like deeds and statutory declarations.

Through that process, respondents also identified 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
  • how they could verify electronic signatures and keep electronic records.

The ETA is an important feature of the growing digital economy and, as an Act of general application, interacts closely with other laws – so it is important that people are aware of how it operates and that the government is aware of any concerns in relation to its use.

As such, the government is seeking public views on the ETA and how it operates in practice.

Why we are consulting

This consultation is designed to start an ongoing discussion on the ETA, including any challenges with its application or any confusion experienced by those interacting in the digital economy. Views collected from the community will help us prepare practical resources that will support the effective implementation of the ETA, improve understanding of the ETA legal framework, and provide guidance on how digital best practice can be applied. Feedback received will be taken into consideration in any future reform process.

Who we want to hear from

The government wants to hear the views of a broad range of stakeholders – including members of the public, commercial and legal groups, consumer advocates, business and tech organisations and government law designers.

Please note that you do not have to answer all of the questions in this consultation process. The only mandatory questions relate to your contact details and, on the last page, whether you consent to make your submissions public.

Have your say

Interests

  • Government
  • Legislation
  • Corporate
  • Financial law