Joint Press Release by MCI and IMDA

The Electronic Transactions (Amendment) Bill was passed in Parliament today, to amend the Electronic Transactions Act (ETA), and make consequential and related amendments to the Bills of Lading Act and the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act. 

2. To facilitate electronic transactions for businesses and citizens in Singapore and help businesses benefit from more convenient and secure electronic transactions, the Ministry of Communications & Information (MCI) and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) have amended the ETA to adopt the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records (MLETR) with modifications into Singapore law, and for the ETA to apply to transferable documents or instruments such as Bills of Lading. 

3. This is the second comprehensive review of the ETA since it was first enacted in 1998, and follows the increasing central role of electronic transactions and e-commerce in the global economy. 

An enabler to enhance Singapore’s competitiveness in the Digital Economy 

4. The ETA facilitates the use of electronic transactions and e-commerce transactions by consumers and businesses. Among other things, the ETA amendments will enable the creation and use of electronic Bills of Lading (eBLs) that are legally equivalent to paper-based Bills of Lading. 

5. Bills of Lading are key legal documents in maritime trade. Compared to the use of  paper-based Bills of Lading1, the adoption of eBLs will enable the shipping industry to benefit from faster transactions, cost savings (e.g. reduced administrative cost of cargo holding and document processing), and lowered fraud risks (through the use of digital authentication systems). Singapore has been encouraging the adoption of eBLs and has conducted technical trials through the TradeTrust digital utility. Please refer to the attached factsheet for more benefits of using Electronic Transferable Records (ETRs). 

Singapore: Among the first countries to adopt the UNCITRAL MLETR 

6. Singapore is amongst the first major trading hubs to adopt with modifications the UNCITRAL MELTR. 

7. Adopting this globally harmonised framework will enable the creation and use of ETRs under the law and allow alignment with Singapore’s trading partners, benefitting both domestic and international industry players across the shipping, finance and legal sectors. The ease of consistent regulations is expected to promote more domestic and cross-border electronic transactions. The ETA amendments also ensure that reliable methods will be used to ensure the authenticity and reliability of ETRs. The shift from paper-based to digitally-enabled trade will speed up trade processes and promote business confidence, supporting the digital transformation of Singapore as a financial, trading and maritime hub.

Moving forward: Singapore to accord legal certainty to more electronic transactions

8. MCI and IMDA have consulted various industry stakeholders via two public consultations and a targeted industry consultation exercise for the ETA review. The Government will continue to work closely with the industry to study the feasibility of extending the applicability of the ETA to more types of items which are currently excluded. Where an item is ready to be removed from the Exclusion List, the Government will work towards the implementation of the necessary legislative and regulatory frameworks and corresponding safeguards to protect the vulnerable and less digitally-savvy. 

9. Together with close industry partnerships, the amendments will ensure the ETA continues to be progressive in the Digital Economy. Please refer to Annex A for related quotes from partners. 

Bills of Lading are documents which acknowledge receipt of cargo for shipment and also prove ownership of the cargo. An importer will incur additional storage and handling costs if a paper BL arrives at the destination port later than the cargo or suffer losses if the BL has been tampered with. 
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