GOL in Law: Explicit Works

Last month, I introduced the Uniform Electronic Commerce Act ( UECA) adopted by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada (ULCC) in 1999 to promote the harmonization of law relating to electronic activity among provincial, territorial and federal jurisdictions. I also described some of the main features of the UECA. This article provides an overview of those provisions of the UECA that specifically relate to governments.

First, the UECA is binding on the Crown. This means that, except as otherwise specifically provided in the UECA or in other legislation, governments adopting the UECA are bound by its provisions.

Second, the term “government” is defined to mean: (1) the government of a particular enacting jurisdiction; (2) any department, agency or body of such a government, other than Crown corporations incorporated by or under a law of such a jurisdiction; and (3) any municipal government or body, however designated, incorporated or established by or under any law of such a jurisdiction. The reason for the exclusion of Crown corporations is that they tend to behave like commercial entities.

Governments usually may not form prior agreements with members of the public regarding the communication formats, hardware and software to be used for the acceptance of information or with respect to the timing of such communications. Accordingly, the UECA provides that government consent is required before a government can be compelled to accept electronic documents or electronic signatures to satisfy any requirement for a person to provide information in writing, provide information in a specified non-electronic form or provide a signature. Moreover, such electronic documents or signatures must meet information technology standards and acknowledgement rules. In addition, a government’s consent to accept information in electronic form requires explicit consent by communication accessible to the public or to those likely to communicate with it for particular purposes. In other words, implied consent is not effective for

the acceptance of information in electronic form

by governments.

Another provision of the UECA authorizes Ministers of the Crown to prescribe electronic means or forms for the communication of information to government or among other parties, whether or not paper forms are already prescribed. Moreover, if a statute sets out a form, the authority responsible for the form may also make a substantially similar electronic form, and a provision in a law that authorizes the prescription of a form or the manner of filing of a form includes the authority to prescribe an electronic form or electronic means of filing the form. Subject to any other express legal requirement, the UECA also allows governments to use electronic communications to create, collect, receive, store, transfer, distribute, publish or otherwise deal with documents or information. Finally, the UECA authorizes both payments made by or to governments to be electronic, if the relevant Receiver General consents.

My next article will discuss provincial and territorial implementation of the UECA. The federal response to the need for legal certainty in electronic activity (which was tabled prior to the adoption of the UECA by the ULCC) will be discussed in a subsequent article.

For the full text of the UECA see Uniform Law conference of Canada, Uniform Electronic Commerce Act, see http://www.law.ualberta.ca/alri/ulc/current/euecafin.htm. For a more detailed description of the UECA, see J. Gregory, The Uniform Electronic Commerce Act, Lex Electronica, vol. 6, no. 1, printemps 2000, http://www.lex-electronica.org/articles/v6-1/gregory.htm.

Christian (Chris) S. Tacit (christian.tacit@nelligan.ca) is the Practice Group Leader of the Technology Law Practice Group at Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.