Entering into electronic contracts

Increasingly, business is being done and people are entering into electronic contracts online, via smartphone platforms or email. Even conveyancing in relation to real property is now done online.

What are the requirements for a contract?

Generally, a contract is in place and valid if the following conditions are met:

  1. The parties are legally competent
  2. There is an offer
  3. There is acceptance of that offer
  4. The consideration or price is agreed

A written signature is not necessarily required for a valid contract to exist. The terms of the agreement also can be agreed verbally. Contracts can be signed electronically since the Electronic Transactions Act 2000 (NSW) and corresponding legislation in Australia’s other States and Territories.

How can they be executed?

There are a number of ways an electronic contract can be “executed” provided that it is clear that the intention is to be legally bound:

  • by an exchange of emails or text messages
  • clicking an ‘accept’ button to accept terms (or even a hyperlink to terms) on a webpage
  • ticking a box to acknowledge and agree in an App
  • typing ‘yes’ or ‘I agree’ into an online form
  • ‘signing’ with your finger or a stylus/digital pen, such as when receiving goods
  • using an electronic signature facility to sign a document

The Act stipulates that that if a person consents to a method of electronic signature and intends that signature to be their consent to the contract, then it will be as binding as a written “wet ink” signature on paper. Act also requires that to be valid, the signatory must be reliably identified.

Some transactions are not able to be completed electronically for obvious reasons, such as:

NOTE – During the COVID-19 pandemic, this changed pursuant to the Electronic Transactions Amendment (COVID-19 Witnessing of Documents) Regulation 2020 (NSW).

What about Deeds?

Deeds (which previously at common law had to be signed, sealed and delivered) or other documents that need to be ‘witnessed’ were unable to be signed electronically in NSW until 22 November 2018 when the insertion of section 38A into the Conveyancing Act 1919 (NSW), which specifically allowed it, was assented to. Witnessing requires physical presence at the time of signing, so it cannot be done by FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp etc.


Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to any contractual, business-related or commercial law matter, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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Who owns the content you post on social media?

With the recent resurgence of the popularity of  FaceApp on social media feeds and considering the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, it is timely to consider some of the concerns being raised over data security and privacy in relation to the use of common smartphone applications.

Most social media apps, including Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat and Twitter, require users to agree to an extremely broad set of Terms and Conditions of Use that allow them access to your data.

This data, which can be used and sold to third parties, is in reality the price for your use of the otherwise “free” app. As it’s often said, “If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re actually the product being sold.”

That said, what is the legal effect of the Terms of Service that we have each agreed to when using social media Apps and who owns the content you post on social media?

  • FaceApp’s Terms can be found here
  • Snapchat’s Terms can be found here
  • Twitter’s Terms can be found here
  • Facebook’s Terms can be found here and includes:

“…when you share, post, or upload content that is covered by intellectual property rights (like photos or videos) on or in connection with our Products, you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, and worldwide license to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate, and create derivative works of your content (consistent with your privacy and application settings). This means, for example, that if you share a photo on Facebook, you give us permission to store, copy, and share it with others (again, consistent with your settings) such as service providers that support our service or other Facebook Products you use…”

  • Instagram’s Terms can be found here (Note – Instagram is one of Facebook’s Products).

They are all quite similar in effect as regards the ownership and use of your content – although generally you continue to own your content, they are able to use it as and when they see fit, forever, for free.

Did you know that you can request a copy of the data that Facebook has and it can be downloaded as a .zip file? To access the download your information tool, click here. You will probably be surprised at the depth of information that is held about you

Some people are shocked to find out that it has access to things like all the contacts on their phone to a record of messages sent or received, payment details and location information… it can be quite unnerving!

Reading the T&Cs is so boring… but an agreement is an agreement and you are agreeing to their Terms of Service when you use the App so you can’t complain. What you may not know is that each App will usually have its own privacy and data related settings which can be adjusted modify the type and amount of information obtained and stored (and seen by others) so you can modify them to help protect your own content.

You have to expect however that with any social type of App, there always be a level of information kept about you, sometimes for good reasons (eg, to feed you more content you may be interested in) but also sometimes for bad. It is up to you to decide how much data you want kept or shared and how that affects your user experience


Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal.

For further information in relation to terms and conditions, consumer rights or any business or commercial law matter, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice.

Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs. Stay up to date – LinkedIn Facebook Twitter

Legal considerations for starting your online business

Online business is booming. Most consumers now favour online shopping given that it is quick, convenient and usually cheaper than in a retail shop.

Consider the legal considerations and responsibilities of running business online, preferably before you start trading.


The first thing that needs to be remembered is that even though you do not have a shopfront, you are still operating a business. As such, there are certain legal requirements that you will need to abide by. In particular, you need to think about:

  • The structure of your business – consider asset protection, risk management, taxation issues, income splitting;
  • Registration of your business name and (the all too often overlooked trademarks, social media and URL registration);
  • Obtaining a tax file number, ABN and, if required, registering for GST;
  • Putting in place Terms of Trade, Privacy Policies and the like.
  • Government regulations and any advertising restrictions regarding the products or services that you wish to sell.

Although these considerations may seem daunting at first, it is important that they are given due consideration. Take for instance the choice of business name. Many would consider this the most important decision in the establishment of an online business. When choosing a name, you need to make sure that it does not infringe upon or not too similar to an existing business name or another person’s trademark. Preferably you would do this before spending money on websites, logos and the like!


Before embarking into the world of e-commerce, it is important to remember that there have been major legislative changes to the laws regulating business transactions. In particular, you should take note of the Australian Consumer Law which regulates consumer affairs and transactions. Provisions which may be relevant to an online business usually concern the issue of misleading and deceptive conduct, misrepresentation and misdescription of products.

Consider the descriptions that you will be putting up about the products you will be selling and the impact that these may have in the mind of the consumer. If you think that they may create a false assumption, then it is best to re-word them and make it clear exactly what the product or service does.

If you are planning on selling products internationally, then you may also need to take regard of legal requirements of the countries that you are proposing to deliver to.


Most online businesses do not sufficiently state the terms of their proposed sale to consumers. The description of the goods is usually there, as is the price and a method of delivery… but that’s about it! What if something goes wrong – what other terms would be useful?

Consider these:

  • Where is the law of the contract?
  • At whose risk are the goods while in transit? Are they insured?
  • What warranties or indemnities (if any) are required?
  • Can the performance of the contract be delegated to a third party?
  • Have you secured supply of key components of your product?
  • Can liability be limited in the contract?
  • What happens if circumstances beyond my control prevent you from fulfilling my contractual obligations?
  • Do you need to protect the intellectual property in any goods sold?
  • How will any disputes be resolved?

Many, if not all, of these matters can be addressed by having appropriately drafted terms of trade. If you haven’t brought all of your terms to the customer’s attention before the contract is entered into, they do not form part of the contract at all.


On-line systems are at risk of fraud 24/7 and from anywhere in the world. When dealing with sensitive information such as personal contact details and credit card information, it is important that you have appropriate security measures in place. You should aim to:

  • Ensure that all personal details and credit card information is securely stored (and encrypted or not stored at all);
  • Take steps to seek to prevent fraud by using appropriate firewalls and software (as well as third party payment systems);
  • Provide a safe and secure online space.

Remember that by doing these actions, you are not only protecting consumers, but also protecting your and your business.


Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to estate planning, business succession or any other commercial law matter, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email