Electronic Signature Laws & Regulations - New Zealand

Overview

Electronic signatures are common in New Zealand and are generally well accepted in the business community. They are regularly used to sign general business contracts, employment contracts, leasing agreements, and other common types of contracts. The key legislation governing the use of electronic signatures is the Contract and Commercial Law Act 2017(CCLA). CCLA Part 4 defines “electronic signature” broadly and does not distinguish between different types of electronic signatures.

CCLA Part 4 states that an electronic signature has the same level of enforceability and admissibility as a “wet signature” so long as the electronic signature meets the following requirements:

  1. the method of signing must identify the signatory and indicate their intention to sign the relevant document or transaction;
  2. the method of signing must be as reliable as appropriate for the purpose and circumstances in which the signature is required;
  3. the person to whom the signature is provided must consent to the method of signing used.

The threshold for satisfying the reliability requirement above is reasonably low and it is presumed that an electronic signature is “as reliable as appropriate” if:

  1. the means of creating the electronic signature is linked to the signatory and to no other person;
  2. the means of creating the electronic signature was under the control of the signatory and of no other person, and any alteration to the electronic signature made after the time of signing is detectable; and
  3. where the purpose of the legal requirement for a signature is to provide assurance as to the integrity of the information to which it relates, any alteration made to that information after the time of signing is detectable.


Special considerations

Transacting with public sector entities

There are no special requirements or restrictions for using electronic signatures with government entities, although government departments may have their own policies.

Use cases that generally require a traditional signature

In New Zealand there are certain use cases that require a traditional ‘wet” signature. The CCLA Part 4 expressly excludes the use of electronic signatures, if:

  1. a signature is required by statute; and
  2. the relevant document or statute is excluded from the CCLA Part 4.

In terms of documents, the relevant exclusions are:

  1. powers of attorney (including enduring powers of attorney);
  2. affidavits, statutory declarations, or other documents given on oath or affirmation; wills, codicils and other testamentary instructions; negotiable instruments (such as cheques); bills of lading; public notices; information that is required to be given in writing either in person or by registered post;
    notices that are required to be attached to anything or left or displayed in any place;
  3. documents under provisions of enactments that relate to requirements to produce or serve a warrant or other document that authorizes (i) entry on premises; or (ii) the search of any person, place, or thing; or (iii) the seizure of anything, (for example, search and seizure orders); and
  4. documents expressly prescribed under the Fair Trading Act 1986 (for example, information standards, product safety standards, or services safety standards).

In terms of statutes, the relevant exclusions include statutes relating to elections and referenda; particular provisions of statutes and regulations explicitly named by the CCLA Part 4; and particular provisions of enactments relating to the practice or procedure of courts, tribunals and other forums (such as the Plumbers, Gasfitters, and Drainlayers Board).

Note:

Disclaimer: Information on this page is intended to help businesses understand the legal framework of electronic signatures. However, Adobe cannot provide legal advice. You should consult an attorney regarding your specific legal questions. Laws and regulations change frequently, and this information may not be current or accurate. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Adobe provides this material on an "as-is" basis. Adobe disclaims and makes no representation or warranty of any kind with respect to this material, express, implied or statutory, including representations, guarantees or warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, or accuracy.

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