Australia – Electronic Transactions Act 1999
There is strong legal precedence for electronic acceptance of contracts. The Electronic Transactions Acts 1999 recognises the use of digital signatures and gives the same level of legal status to properly executed electronic contracts as it would to signed paper contracts.
The Electronic Transactions Act 1999 ensures that a transaction under a Commonwealth law will not be invalid simply because it was conducted through electronic communication.
If a Commonwealth law requires you to:
- give information in writing
- provide a handwritten signature
- produce a document in material form
- record or retain information
The Electronic Transactions Act means you can do these things electronically.
Exceptions to the Act
The Act applies to all laws of the Commonwealth unless they are specifically exempted by the Electronic Transactions Regulations 2000.
If a law is exempt you may still have to use paper forms or retain paper-based information. Most exemptions can be found in Schedule 1 of the Regulations.
Find out more about electronic transactions in the download below:
Australia is currently considering acceding to the United Nations Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts. You can find out more about the convention and the effect accession would have on Australia’s laws on the United Nations Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts page.
Uniform electronic transactions in the states and territories
Each state and territory has its own Electronic Transactions Act, which generally mirrors the Commonwealth Electronic Transactions Act.
If you need to know if you can do business electronically under a state or territory law, check the electronic transactions legislation in your relevant state or territory:
- Australian Capital Territory
- New South Wales
- Northern Territory
- South Australia
- Western Australia.
Electronic Signature vs Digital Signatures
The Electronic Transactions Act allows a person to satisfy a legal requirement for a manual signature by using an electronic communication.
The method used must identify the person and indicate their approval of the information communicated.
The Electronic Transactions Act is ‘technologically neutral’ so it does not set out a particular electronic signature technology to be used, providing flexibility for people and businesses to determine the signature technology that is appropriate to their particular needs.
However, the choice of a particular method must be as ‘reliable as appropriate in the circumstances’. Electronic signatures range from a digitised version of a written signature to a PIN or biometric technology.
‘Digital signatures’ refers to Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) technology.
A digital signature is a cryptographic technique that encrypts a hash or digest of a document with a user’s private key. This creates a unique and un-forgeable identifier that can be checked by the receiver to verify authenticity and integrity and provide for non-repudiation.
The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) has published the Australian Government Authentication Framework (AGAF) to help identify suitable types of electronic authentication for transactions involving government agencies.
AGIMO has also published ‘Gatekeeper’ which is a strategy for the use of PKI in the delivery of online government services, where appropriate.
How HROnboard deals with electronic acceptance
The general position in the Electronic Transactions Act is that if a person’s signature is required under a law of the jurisdiction, including a law that provides consequences for the absence of a signature, an electronic signature will satisfy this requirement if:
- a method is used to identify the person and to indicate that person’s intention in respect of the information communicated;
- the method used is reliable and appropriate in the circumstances; and
- the person whose signature is required consents to the requirement being met by using that method.
HROnboard addresses this by:
Identifying the person and intent
HROnboard sends notifications to the user’s email address and mobile phone number.
The notification clearly states in order to accept the offer they must go through an online process. See Notifying the Employee of an Offer
In order to accept an offer, the user must login to the portal using the details sent to their email address and confirm a validation code sent to their mobile. See Offer and Policy Acceptance Page.
The method used is reliable and appropriate
HROnboard is cloud based app hosted in Australia by Amazon Web Services. Our application is fault tolerant, redundant and secure. See HROnboard Security Statement and HROnboard Backups and Disaster Recovery
The method is appropriate – Electronic acceptance of employment offers, changes to employment contract and exiting documentation is a recognised practice in Human Resources.
The person whose signature is required consents to the requirement being met by using that method
HROnboard has configurable text areas in the portal that allows individual customers to explicitly meet this requirement. Most likely this would be stated on the Offer and Policy Acceptance Page step.
Further Reading and References
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