The E-Communications Convention — in Australia

The Australian government has just started a public consultation on the desirability of ratifying the UN E-Communications Convention in that country. The page containing the public notice also offers a link to the consultation paper in PDF or Word.

The American Uniform Law Commission (formerly NCCUSL) has a Committee to study implementation of the Convention in the US. The working group met recently to discuss options for implementation.

In Canada, there appears to be little action since the Uniform Law Conference meeting on the topic in August. Professor Gautrais’ paper on the impact of the Convention on Quebec law [PDF] recommends against ratification of the Convention; to date the ULCC has not put the papers from the 2008 meeting online, including Professor Deturbide’s study of the impact of the Convention on Canadian common law jurisdictions, which comes out in favour of ratification.

It seems generally agreed that Canadian jurisdictions do not need the Convention in their domestic law. Most of them have adopted the Uniform Electronic Commerce Act, more or less uniformly, and Quebec has removed legal barriers to e-communications even more broadly. The point of ratifying the Convention is to encourage ratification by countries whose domestic laws are not as favourable, so that international business can rely on e-communications and be sure of a welcoming legal regime.

Of course it is probably simpler for everybody if our domestic law and our law applicable to international contracts were the same, so it is a fair question to ask if we should adapt our rules –- to the very small extent required, at least in common law jurisdictions –- to harmonize them with the Convention.

Do you have clients who might benefit from this approach in their international contracting?

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