Clifford Gouldson Lawyers

Electronic Signing - The future is NOT here!

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IPads and smartphones are fast becoming the primary tools for doing business, especially as offices around Australia make the move to go ‘paperless’. Combined with the increased use of electronic signature software, many clients are now asking us whether they can execute documents electronically on their iPad, rather than put pen to paper.

The term ‘electronic signing’ refers to the use of certain software and technology which allows you to sign a device using a stylus or similar, rather than having to print a document, sign it by hand and re-scan it to your device to send by email.

The Commonwealth Electronic Transactions Act and the Queensland Electronic Transactions Act specify the circumstances in which signing electronically will be effective.  Unfortunately, the law has not yet caught up with current technology and there are very limited circumstances in which documents will be legally binding if signed electronically.

The Corporations Act 2001 (which specifies the methods by which a company can execute documents), is wholly excluded from the application of the Commonwealth Electronic Transactions Act, which means electronic signatures are not a valid signing method for companies.

In addition, although the majority of legislation requires individuals to have their signatures witnessed, the Queensland Electronic Transactions Act does not apply to the signatures of witnesses.

This means that practically, a document which has been electronically signed would need to be printed and manually witnessed in any case, defeating the original purpose of electronically signing.

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