Australia’s Electronic Transactions Act (ETA) of 1999 was created and implemented to provide a more secure environment for e-commerce. There were 3 key parts of the Act: validating the legality of electronic transactions, ensuring non-discrimination in the treatment and acceptance of various forms of electronic methods, and adding party autonomy when agreeing to alternative conditions and terms. This Act has provided essential safeguards for companies and individuals alike.
The Act Validated Electronic Communication
While the Electronic Transactions Act of 1999 has many parts, at its core it states that a transaction isn’t invalid just because it’s conducted by using electronic communications.
It allows any of these requirements or permissions to be fulfilled in electronic form:
- Providing information in writing
- Providing a handwritten signature
- Creating a document in material form
- Retaining and/or recording information
The Act Was Implemented in 2 Stages
There were 2 stages to the implementation of the Act. Prior to July 1, 2001, it was only applicable to the laws of the Australian Commonwealth that were specifically laid out in the Electronic Transactions Regulations 2000. After July 1, 2001 it applied to all laws of the Commonwealth, except those that were specifically laid out as exempt by the Act of the Electronic Transactions Regulations 2000.
The Attorney General has the final call in which laws are exempt from the Act, and said Attorney General consults with various other departments. This decision is made based on the commitment to deliver every possible service online if applicable.
The 2 Basic Principles
There were 2 principles considered when the ETA was created:
- Functional equivalence. Essentially, the Act ensures that paper documents and electronic transactions are treated as equals by the law.
- Technological neutrality. The Act was set up specifically to not discriminate between different forms of technology. This assures that the Act will not treat software from one company any different than software from another company, preventing favoritism.
The 4 Most Important Sections of the Act
There are many sections to the Act, but there are 4 essential parts that anyone concerned with international eSignature laws should be aware of:
- Section 8: General; This section lays out that a transaction cannot be considered invalid simply because it took place in total or part by means of 1 or more electronic communication methods.
- Section 10: Signatures; In this section, the ETA states that if a person’s signature is required, it may be given via electronic methods as long as 3 criteria are met:
- Approved methods are used to identify the person signing and to indicate they approve of the transaction
- The method used to gain the signature is reliable
- There is consent of the signature recipient
- Section 11: Documents; Documents can be submitted electronically even if other laws require a paper document.
- Section 12: Records; If an individual or company is required to retain or record documentation or information in writing, they can meet that requirement by recording or retaining said information in electronic form.
eSignatures Have Many Benefits
Australia has passed this Act to make it easier for companies to accept eSignatures in ecommerce businesses because it’s better for business. When a company is able to accept an eSignature instead of a signature in person, they reap many rewards:
- They save time. It’s frustrating for employees to have to set up appointments with their customers to get things done in writing, and it’s frustrating for those customers, too. Allowing for eSignatures prevents the necessity to drive across town—or further—just to get a signature.
- They save money. Time is money, there’s no question about it; yet saving time isn’t the only way companies can save money by implementing eSignatures. Consider how much money a company will spend to FedEx or overnight original documents for signatures. They then must often pay the return shipping, as well. This is an added expense that’s simply unnecessary in today’s age of eSignature options.
- They offer more opportunities. Companies are no longer limited to working with customers in their region. They can work with customers all across their state, their country—and even the world—when original signatures aren’t required.
Increase the Security and Validity of eCommerce Transactions
If you or your company is involved in ecommerce transactions, then you already know how important security and validity are when it comes to accepting eSignatures. There’s no question that they add convenience and save you money, but without proper security in place they can sometimes be more of a headache than they’re worth.
The good news is that eFileCabinet takes the guesswork out of eSignatures, and makes it simpler. Consider our integration with RightSignature to not just add security and validity, but convenience, as well. Fill out the form today to learn more about how you can protect your business—and your customers—with eFileCabinet’s many intuitive, secure, and integrated products.