Singapore was among the first countries in the world to have introduced legislation to enable electronic commerce. The Electronic Transactions Act (the Act) (Cap. 88) was enacted in 1998 to provide a legal framework that clearly sets out the rights and obligations of parties in the course of electronic commerce, as well as the legal aspects of electronic contracts, digital signatures, authentication and non-repudiation.

  • Date: 10 Oct 2012

Singapore was among the first countries in the world to have introduced legislation to enable electronic commerce. The Electronic Transactions Act (the Act) (Cap. 88) was enacted in 1998 to provide a legal framework that clearly sets out the rights and obligations of parties in the course of electronic commerce, as well as the legal aspects of electronic contracts, digital signatures, authentication and non-repudiation. The framework also helped to ensure the predictability and certainty of contracts formed electronically. The Act closely followed the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Commerce.

From 2004 to 2005, the Info-communications Development Authority of Singapore and the Attorney-General's Chambers held a joint public consultation, carried out in three stages, on the review of the Act and the Electronic Transactions (Certification Authority) Regulations
(Cap. 88, Rg 1).

The consultations were undertaken concurrently with the development of the UN Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts (adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 23rd November 2005) (the UN Convention) by UNCITRAL. Singapore chaired the UNCITRAL Working Group and UN Commission session which approved the UN Convention. Singapore became a signatory to the UN Convention on 6th July 2006.

The Electronic Transactions Bill (No. 12/2010) seeks to repeal and re-enact the Act to align the law on electronic transactions with the UN Convention. The proposed Bill and Regulations also make changes to facilitate e-Government. New Electronic Transactions (Certification Authority) Regulations will be enacted to replace the existing voluntary licensing framework with a new accreditation framework for the regulation of certification authorities.

The definitions of the terms used in the Bill have been adopted for consistency with the UN Convention. The Act is to be construed consistently with what is commercially reasonable under the circumstances and to give effect to purposes specified therein, such as facilitating electronic commerce, promoting public confidence in the integrity and reliability of electronic records and electronic commerce and implementation of the UN Convention.

Part II of the Act provides for the legal effect and status of, and rules relating to, electronic transactions and electronic signatures in general. To align with the UN Convention, the existing provisions on the requirement for signatures and the time and place of despatch of electronic records have been amended, and new provisions on originals, invitations to make offers, the use of automated message systems for contract formation and errors in electronic communications, have been added.

Part III re-enacts the provisions relating to the circumstances under which electronic records and signatures are to be treated as secure and the rebuttable presumptions that apply to secure electronic records and secure electronic signatures.

Part IV provides for the regulation of security procedures. Underlining the technology neutral approach of the Act, provisions on digital signatures have been moved to the Second, Third and Fourth Schedules to the Act.

Part V re-enacts the existing provision on the use of electronic records and signatures by public agencies, with modifications. A public agency is empowered to accept in electronic form the filing of documents, the provision of information, the creation or retention of documents, the provision or retention of originals, the issuance of permits and payments.

Part VI re-enacts the existing provision on the liability of network service providers. A network service provider is not subject to civil or criminal liability for third-party material in the form of electronic records to which the provider merely provides access. The protection will, however, not apply if the provider does something more than merely providing access to the third-party material.

Part VII provides for the appointment of a Controller, the Deputy and Assistant Controllers and other officers, and the delegation of the powers and duties of the Controller for the purposes of the Bill, as well as other general and miscellaneous matters.

The excerpt of the AGC Digest is reproduced on this website with the permission of the Government of Singapore.

Last updated on: 24 May 2019