Compliance Electronic signatures
3 mins read

Electronic signatures: Are they legally accepted in Australia? 

Electronic signatures are critical to doing business efficiently through online channels. Customers expect a convenient way to sign documents without having to print, sign and scan documents, particularly when they have become the norm and are legally accepted in Australia. 

Are electronic signatures legally valid in Australia?

Yes, electronic signatures are legally valid in Australia and are governed by federal and state legislation.  

Federal and state laws govern electronic signatures

According to Section 126 of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth), authorised company representatives can execute documents on behalf of their company without using a common seal. They can use electronic signatures which are recognised under the broader legal framework of the Electronic Transactions Act 1999 and similar state and territory laws.  

The Electronic Transactions Act 1999 (Cth) is a federal law that sets the groundwork for the use of electronic transactions and signatures in Australia. This law states that electronic transactions are as legally valid as traditional paper-based transactions; it allows for electronic signatures to be used for various transactions, provided they meet certain conditions.  

Meanwhile, each state and territory has its own legislation that largely mirrors the federal Act, ensuring consistency in the validity and enforceability of electronic transactions and signatures across all jurisdictions in Australia.  

  • NSW: Electronic Transactions Act 2000  
  • ACT: Electronic Transactions Act 2001  
  • VIC: Electronic Transactions (Victoria) Act 2000  
  • QLD: Electronic Transactions (Queensland) Act 2001  
  • SA: Electronic Communications Act 2000 
  • WA: Electronic Transactions Act 2011  
  • TAS: Electronic Transactions Act 2000  
  • NT: Electronic Transactions (Northern Territory) Act 2000  

These laws give Australians greater confidence to conduct business electronically.  

Requirements for legal recognition of electronic signatures

In Australia, electronic signatures are considered legally valid and enforceable, as long as they meet these conditions: 

  1. Consent of the parties 

All parties involved in the transaction must agree to the use of electronic signatures. This consent may be explicit or implied based on context.  

  1. Identification and intent of the signatory 

The electronic signature must adequately identify the person signing the document and indicate their intention to be bound by the document. 

  1. Reliability of the method 

The method used to sign electronically must be reliable and appropriate for the purpose of the document. The technology and process used should ensure the integrity and security of the electronic signature.   

  1. Integrity of the document 

The information contained in the document must remain complete and unaltered, apart from any changes that might occur in the normal course of communication, storage and display. 

  1. Compliance with legal requirements 

The electronic signature must comply with any specific legal requirements (e.g. industry laws and regulations) that apply to the particular type of transaction.  

Exceptions: When are electronic signatures not valid?

Certain types of documents and transactions are excluded from being executed electronically. These typically involve documents that must be personally served or witnessed, such as: 

  • Wills and testamentary documents 
  • Some powers of attorney 
  • Transfer of real property  
  • Affidavits and statutory declarations  
  • Some court documents 

These exceptions vary by state and territory. To determine whether an electronic signature is acceptable, make sure to check the specific requirements for that type of document and jurisdiction.  

With these laws and regulations approving and governing electronic transactions, you can trade confidently with electronic signatures, knowing they are legally recognised in Australia. 

Should my business use electronic signatures?

There are many benefits to using electronic signatures in your business. 

When onboarding a new customer, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to complete their onboarding forms, sign documents, and open their account. 

By using electronic signatures within your customer onboarding process, you’ll enable customers to: 

  • Sign documents quickly, from anywhere – whether it be a mobile phone, tablet or computer, they don’t need a printer or scanner to send back signed documents.  
  • Increase completion rate – with hassle-free signing and automated reminders, applications will complete faster, with fewer incomplete applications to follow up. 
  • Maintain security – audit trail of signing events allow you to identify fraud  
ApplyEasy compliance e-signature electronic signatures legal security
Kaitlyn Knight
ApplyEasy Specialist
Kaitlyn joined CreditorWatch in January 2021. Since starting, Kaitlyn’s been passionate about the importance of businesses mitigating risk during the customer onboarding stage. She specialises in assisting and educating businesses on how to streamline, automate, and digitise their onboarding processes.
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