AUSTRALIAN PROPERTY INSTITUTECORONAVIRUS COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Industry coalition urges adopting e-transaction permanently

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AN industry coalition including the Australian Property Institute, Australian Banking Association and the Business Council of Australia said the adoption of electronic transactions temporarily during the COVID-19 lockdown should be made permanent.

The coalition including the Australian Property Institute, Australian Banking Association, the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Institute of Company Directors, the Council of Small Business Organisations, the Financial Services Council and the Real Estate Institute of NSW are urging the National Cabinet to adopt these changes permanently.

They said the adoption of electronic mortgages, witnessing a document over video call and signing documents electronically should be made permanent to save time, money and hassle for Australian customers.

Furthermore, for the benefit of consumers, permanent changes should be made as follows:

  • Allow Deeds to be created and signed electronically;
  • Accept electronic signatures rather than paper signatures for a broader range of legal and business documents;
  • Allow witnessing of documents to happen via audio-visual means with use of an electronic signature. Witnessing should not be required for deeds;
  • and processing a mortgage digitally.

API CEO Amelia Hodge said innovation was important for the property industry as it looks towards post-COVID-19 recovery.

“Let’s reduce red tape and promote growth and activity in the property sector – that’s what we need from federal and state governments,” Hodge said. “We’ve all accelerated implementation of digital solutions during the COVID-19 crisis so let’s bring that same approach to buying a home, permanently,”

Hodge said allowing forms to be electronically signed and witnessed will mean property professionals and the legal, financial and banking sectors can work seamlessly together.”

BCA CEO Jennifer Westacott added: “To manage this crisis governments acted quickly to suspend outdated, unnecessary and job-killing red tape that was making it harder to do business,”

“As we recover we should all ask ourselves at every step of the way, will bringing back these regulations help keep costs down for consumers or help make Australia an easier place to do business and create new jobs?” she said.

REINSW CEO Tim McKibbin said the pre-COVID-19 legislative restraints imposed on signing, witnessing and/or lodging some documents electronically is unjustified.

“The fundamental question to be asked is, what problem does the legislative controls address? I am unable to identify a circumstance where the consumers is better protected with hard copy documents and wet signatures than in the electronic environment,” he said.

ABA CEO Anna Bligh said Australian consumers were the big winners by making transactions easier, keeping costs down and reducing the hassle of transactions which rely on ‘in person’ signatures and paper documents.

“The onset of COVID-19 has meant fast tracking moves right across the economy to a paperless, contactless digital way of conducting business.” Bligh said.

AICD CEO Angus Armour said this is the opportunity to push governance and business rules into the 21st century with more digital friendly settings.