The Act is based on The Uniform Electronic Commerce Act adopted by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada in 1999. The Uniform Act is based on the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Commerce adopted by the United Nations in 1996.
The purpose of the Act is to facilitate the use and acceptance of electronic information by persons who wish to do so. The Act ensures that people who wish to deal with each other electronically can do so despite the existence of certain legal requirements that seem difficult to satisfy electronically (e.g., for writing, for signatures or for delivery by registered mail).
The Act does not limit the public's ability to determine whether, when, or under what conditions they will conduct transactions electronically or take advantage of the options available under the legislation. Nothing in the Act requires a person to use or accept electronic documents.
The major features of this legislation:
- confirm the legal effect of transactions conducted electronically (except in prescribed cases or to specific circumstances);
- deal with the time of sending and receiving of electronic documents but provides that the Act does not override specific enactments respecting electronic documents or requirements respecting the delivery or posting of information;
- clarify that the use of the words "in writing" or "signature" in an Act does not preclude the use of electronic documents;
- provide for specific rules respecting:
- the legal effect of electronic information;
- the need for express consent by a "public body" for use or transmission of information by electronic methods;
- conflicts between this Act and any other Act dealing with electronic information;
- require information to be specifically provided, accessible, capable of being retained or substantially in the correct form, depending on the circumstances;
- require an electronic vendor to provide documents in paper unless separate consent for electronic provision is obtained;
- authorize the use of electronic signatures and provide for specific regulations to be made regarding the eligibility requirements for electronic signatures in prescribed circumstances;
- set out requirements for providing or retaining original or other documents;
- require only one copy of an electronic document to be provided if several paper copies are required;
- confirm that electronic contracts may be entered into and provide legal rules that govern their formulation; and
- set out special requirements for the formulation of negotiable electronic documents for the carriage of goods.