New Zealand to pass electronic transactions bill soon

The long-delayed Electronic Transactions Bill is likely to pass its final stages in the next few days, parliamentary sources say, and will swiftly be written into law.

The bill was exiting its final committee stage on Tuesday and was due to come back into the House for its third and last reading.

The bill regularizes the status of electronic transactions, giving them broadly the same status in law as transactions concluded on pieces of paper. It makes tacit provision for recognition of electronic signatures, not defining what a signature is, but leaving its recognition to common law.

The legislation has the potential to facilitate the growth of e-business, remove legislative barriers to online trade and reduce compliance and transaction costs. It would make this country's laws more compatible with those of its trading partners, said Russell McVeagh partner Mike Cronin at an e-business law seminar earlier this year.

The ruling Labor party and other parties, notably the Greens, have been accused by IT industry spokespeople of giving the bill insufficient attention and priority. Green co-leader Rod Donald at the time rebutted the accusation, saying there was a lot of other important legislation to be passed.

IT bodies such as ITANZ and InternetNZ have emphasized that this bill and the Crimes Amendment No 6 Bill, criminalizing "hacking", are important for the progress of e-business.

The Crimes Amendment Bill is sitting at number 37 on the order paper, with Parliament still to finish consideration of the report back from select committee.

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