The Electronic Transactions Act 2000 (Vic) confirms that an electronic signature is a valid option to execute documents for various transactions, including:
- any transaction in the nature of a contract, agreement or other arrangement; and
- any statement, declaration, demand, notice or request, including an offer and the acceptance of an offer, that the parties are required to make or choose to make in connection with the formation or performance of a contract, agreement or other arrangement;
- any transaction of a non-commercial nature; and
- any deed.
Electronic Signing for Companies
Similarly, there was a recent amendment to the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) with effect on and from 23 February 2022, to allow a company or an agent of a company to use the execution of an electronic copy or counterpart of documents.
When a company or an agent of a company executes a document, the Corporations Act now allows for the following:
- Signing of an electronic copy of the document using an electronic signature;
- Production of only parts of the document (signing pages); and
- Split execution of the document with different signing method for different signatures.
What are the requirements for using an electronic signature?
There are various ways to electronically sign a document, as the current legislation does not prescribe any specific method. There are, however, three requirements that must be followed:
- Identity: a method is used to identify the person and to indicate that person’s intention regarding the information communicated;
- Reliability: the method used is reliable or factually proven to have identified the person and indicated their intentions regarding the information communicated; and
- Consent: the person to whom the signature is being given consents to use the agreed method of identifying the person and indicating their intention.
How to sign electronically?
As such, you can electronically sign a document by:
- Creating an electronic copy of your signature and pasting it into a document;
- Electronically signing a PDF document using a stylus or your finger;
- Printing and signing a paper copy of the document and scanning the document; or
- Confirming your agreement by electronically selecting an option indicating your agreement.
As some documents require a witness to the execution of the document, the Electronic Transactions Act 2000 (Vic) also provides flexibility to witness the signing via audio visual link, provided that:
- The witness is satisfied that they are signing the same document as the signatory;
- The witness is signing the document on the same day; and
- The document includes a notation that the document was witnessed by audio visual link in accordance with Section 12 of the Electronic Transactions Act 2000 (Vic).
However, please note that while you are allowed to witness the signing via audio visual link, you still have satisfy the usual requirements and obligations of a witness.
Exemptions and additional requirements
While you can now electronically sign most documents, please be aware that there might be exemptions or additional requirements involved in executing some legal documents, such as:
- Powers of Attorney;
- Wills, Codicils and other testamentary instruments;
- Advance Care Directives;
- Arrangements in relation to voluntary assisted dying; and
How Sharrock Pitman Legal can help?
Increasingly, businesses, organisations and government agencies are adopting a digital approach to engaging with their clients and customers. While convenience and reduced delay are considered benefits, it is important to remember that your signature on a document, in whatever form, instils contractual obligations as well as rights.
Before signing any document, it is recommended that you seek legal advice to ensure that the details in the document you are signing are as agreed.
The information contained in this article is intended to be of a general nature only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Any legal matters should be discussed specifically with one of our lawyers.
Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.
Ignatius Suwanto is a lawyer at Sharrock Pitman Legal. He is a member of our Property Law team. For further information, contact Ignatius on his direct line (03) 8561 3331.