Considering the security of electronic agreements of purchase and sale: Electronic Commerce Act, Possible e-signature regulation
Bill or Act:
Electronic Commerce Act, 2000
Summary of Decision:
The amendments made in 2013 to the Electronic Commerce Act have been proclaimed in force effective July 1, 2015. The provisions of that Act will extend to real estate transactions as of that date. No regulation was made.
November 14, 2014
Summary of Proposal:
Ontario's legislation removing legal barriers to the use of electronic communications is the Electronic Commerce Act, 2000 (ECA). The ECA allows a legal signature requirement to be satisfied by an electronic signature. An electronic signature is defined as information in electronic form applied to or associated with a document in order to sign it.
In other words, there are no standards of reliability or security for e-signatures in the statute. Just as with handwritten signatures, it is up to the person relying on them to decide if they are sufficiently reliable.
The ECA has not up to now applied to land transactions. It was amended in 2013 to make it apply to them. The question has been raised whether electronic land transactions would be more susceptible to real estate fraud than transactions based on paper. It has been suggested that the risk of fraud might be reduced by specifying the kind of electronic signature that could appear on the basic sales document, known as an agreement of purchase and sale.
The ECA allows the government to make regulations about e-signatures in particular uses, specifying security or other rules. No such regulation has been made since the ECA was adopted in 2000. The government is considering whether to make a regulation about e-signatures and if so, in what form. The considerations that arise in doing so are set out in the attached consultation document.
Ministry of the Attorney General
Justice Policy Development Branch
720 Bay Street, 7th Floor
Toronto, ON M7A 2S9
July 1, 2015