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  • Australia will soon be eligible to accede to the 2005 United Nations Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts. The Convention also has current relevance as the Commonwealth, most states and territories (with the exception of Queensland) have made amendments to their respective electronic transactions legislation to reflect the new international standard (as per the Convention).
  • The adoption of the Convention will remove any uncertainty with respect to the acceptability of the use of electronic communications in international contracting and enable parties to meet the written form requirements imposed by international treaties, such as the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards and the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods.

The Australian Government has been considering accession to the 2005 United Nations Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts (‘Convention’), which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 23 November 2005 and entered into force on 1 March 2013. The purpose of the Convention is to facilitate the use of electronic communications in international trade by enhancing the legal effectiveness and commercial predictability of such communications in international contracts. It seeks to confer the same validity to and enforceability of paper based forms of communication and storage of information to contracts and communications that have been exchanged electronically. The Convention significantly facilitates trade by endorsing an enabling environment for paperless trade.

Some of the Convention’s objectives are:

  • to remove legal obstacles where electronic communications are used that may arise from the terms of international agreements concluded before the widespread use of electronic media;
  • to foster the modernisation and harmonization of existing e-commerce legislation; and
  • to provide jurisdictions that have not yet adopted laws on electronic transactions with a modern set of rules for both domestic and international application.

The first part of this article examines the international relevance of the Convention and provides a review of the previous regime in Australia, in particular the 1996 Model Law On Electronic Commerce (‘Model Law’), followed by a discussion of the Convention’s current status. The second part examines the main features of the domestic legislation focusing on some key amendments.

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