ETA to be clarified

The Electronic Transactions Act will come into force once grey areas relating to tax records, animal destruction notices and notices required under the Credit Contracts Act are cleared up.

The Electronic Transactions Act will come into force once grey areas relating to tax records, animal destruction notices and notices required under the Credit Contracts Act are cleared up.

A recently released discussion paper suggests how those areas could be tightened up and the Ministry of Economic Development is calling for submissions on those suggestions.

There are two proposed clarifying regulations to be made regarding the Credit Contracts Act.

The first relates to when someone wants to cancel a credit contract. Presently, notice can be mailed or presented in person – but the ETA would allow it to be given via email or other electronic means. The proposed regulation requires the creditor to give the borrower the choice of the method of notification, at the time they sign the contract.

The second issue under the Credit Contracts Act relates to the legally accepted time of receipt of a notice. At present, it is four days after a notice is posted. Under the ETA, disclosure is deemed to have been given when an emailed notice comes to the attention of the recipient. The proposed change would make it four days after sending as well.

Dogs found wandering in national parks are the subject of the third proposed regulation. Such dogs can be seized and destroyed if the dog isn't claimed within a week of its owner being given notice. If an owner is to be given notice by email, the owner must give permission to send it in that form.

The final regulation concerns tax records. The ETA allows electronic information copied from paper records to become the official record and the paper record to be destroyed. Because the ETA provisions relate to the information, not the physical document, the act effectively allows it to be retained in a different format.

However, existing tax laws say such records must be kept and altering the form and shape of a document, even while retaining the data, may hinder that. Therefore, the proposed regulation would stipulate that an electronic document must be physically exactly the same as the paper one, ie an exact reproduction, not a re-formatting.

The ETA applies only to notices and transactions performed under laws and regulations relating to government agencies and government-enacted rules. Communications concerning private aspects of business not covered will remain a matter for common law when disputes emerge.

Submissions on the proposed regulations should be emailed or posted to Andrew McCallum at the Ministry of Economic Development, PO Box 1473, Wellington and should arrive by May 1.

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