Electronic signatures (or “eSignatures”) are legal in Australia under the 1999 Electronic Transactions Law. Similar to US law, eSignatures are acceptable and enforceable for nearly every type of transaction.
According to Australian law, a contract is considered valid as long as legally competent parties agree to its terms—even in the absence of a signature. Thus, agreements may be considered legal and binding whether they are executed verbally, electronically, or using a physical paper document.
The Electronic Transactions Act of 1999 holds that electronic signatures carry the same weight as handwritten signatures and are legally enforceable, as long as:
- The method used to sign identifies the person signing and indicates that person’s intent to sign, and
- The method used to sign is reliable and appropriate under the circumstances.
Common eSignature use cases
Electronic signatures are legally valid and appropriate for most business and legal transactions in Australia. Common use cases include:
- HR documents such as employment contracts, benefit paperwork, and new employee onboarding
- Commercial agreements including NDAs, sales agreements, and procurement documents
- Consumer agreements including terms of sale
- Real estate documents and lease agreements
- Licensing agreements
Use cases where eSignature is not appropriate
Despite broad acceptance of eSignatures, there are certain documents that must be signed by hand in Australia. These include:
- Powers of attorney (in certain states/territories)
- Wills, codicils, and other testamentary instruments
- Bills of exchange
- The signature, lodgement, service, and filing of documents related to legal proceedings (in certain states/territories)
- Certain documents related to health insurance, life insurance, and general insurance
- Documents, notices, and consents used in connection with credit under the National Consumer Credit Protection Act of 2009
- Some property transactions in South Australia
- Transfers of intangible properties, such as intellectual property
- Official Commonwealth documents such as passports
- Documents related to immigration or citizenship issues
In general, any document that requires the presence of a witness must have a physical signature.
Technology standards in Australia
The requirements for digital signature technology vary significantly between countries. Australia takes an open, technology-neutral approach to electronic signature. This means there are no laws requiring the use of specific technology for a legally enforceable electronic signature. Other countries—particularly those in the EU, South America, and Asia—follow tiered eSignature models that may require specific technical requirements and/or independent accreditation by a local certification body.
The information on this site is for general reference and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be considered legal advice, nor should it be relied upon in any decision making process. Laws pertaining to electronic signatures vary by jurisdiction and may change quickly. Conga cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information on this site. Please consult with a licensed attorney, or other qualified counsel, for answers to any specific questions related to the use or validity of electronic signatures.
Last updated: 08/02/2021