Industry unites in electronic contracts push

Australia’s nine real estate institutes have lobbied for the repeal of legislation that is impeding the widespread use of e-contracts.

The institutes have made a joint submission to the federal, state and territory governments calling for the repeal of certain exemptions in legislation governing electronic transactions.

The submission claimed that these exemptions affect most property-related transactions – although it conceded that the exemptions don’t technically override the validity of property-related agreements being transacted by e-contract.

“However, the exemptions leave property industry professionals and consumers without the benefit of the electronic transactions code as a guide for procedure in relation to the creation, transmission and signing of documents by electronic communication,” it said.

“This has led to uncertainty and confusion as to what procedures should govern property industry e-commerce transactions, and thereby seriously delayed the process of development of property industry e-contracts that are safe and simple to understand and use.”

The exemptions in question apply when a document needs to be signed by a company and when a signature needs to be witnessed – and, in the case of South Australia, when a document relates to a land transaction.

This makes it harder for agents to do their job and reduces consumer convenience, according to the submission.

Real Estate Institute of NSW chief executive Tim McKibbin, who helped coordinate the submission, said it represents a landmark gathering of all Australian institutes.

“We all recognise the importance of removing the barrier to widespread use of e-contracts and call for changes to commonwealth, state and territory legislation to address unintended consequences within the regulations,” he said.

[Related: New contract technology could stimulate auction bidding]

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