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Electronic Signing of Documents

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an easing of legal requirements for the signing of document and the effecting of exchange.

For Deeds, the electronic regulations within property and company law have stipulated that counterpart copies exchanged electronically will be binding on the parties as if signatures were in original form.  Concerning deeds or contracts:

(a) can be exchanged by scanned copy;

(b) are is binding on the parties as if the signatures were in original form;

(c) within seven days from the electronic exchange the parties to provide the hard copy documents to each other;

(d) that the solicitor acting can substitute the original signature page for the scanned signature page once the delivery of hardcopy has occurred.

For companies, including not-for-profit companies limited by guarantee, the Corporations (Coronavirus Economic Response) Determination (No 1) 2020 came into effect on 6 May 2020. It remains effective, and allows for split execution through Adobe Sign or Docusign by Directors (where Directors are not present in the same location).Signing could also be by wet ink in separate locations.  However, the copy paste of a person’s signature would require further evidence of their identity, for example, a confirmatory email.

Initially, the technique was to be available for six months until 6 November 2020, however, this period has been extended to 20 March 2021.

Similar easing of technical requirements for the conduct of company meetings were enacted and remain current until 22 March 2021.

As a consequence of the Corporations (Coronavirus Economic Response) Determination No 3, which repeals No 1 but extends it to 22 March 2021, the substantive provisions stipulate meetings held may continue to have the effect as if they were held in person.  A stipulation is that all persons participating have the benefit of hearing and, if possible, sighting others participating and also have the benefit of speaking and being heard.

Josephine Heesh, Partner

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