News: Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records

In July 2017 the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) released for implementation the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records (ML-ETR).  The ML-ETR legally enables the use of electronic transferable records that are functionally equivalent to transferable instruments including bills of lading, bills of exchange, promissory notes and warehouse receipts.

Dr Alan Davidson has participated and contributed as a delegate to all sessions of Working Group IV sessions held at the UN in New York and Vienna since 2014. The final ML-ETR includes text and concepts introduced by Dr Davidson. Over four sessions Dr Davidson supervised 12 students from the University of Queensland Law School, 10 of whom research financial assistance from an Endeavour Grant.

The use of electronic transferable records is expected to bring about benefits to electronic commerce including efficiencies and security of transmission. Electronic transferable records are relevant for business areas such as transport and logistics and finance. The ML-ETR sets forth the requirements for the use and defines control as the functional equivalent of possession of a transferable instrument. The ML-ETR also provides guidance on the assessment of the reliability of the method used to manage the electronic transferable record, on change of medium and on cross-border aspects.

The adoption of the principle of functional equivalence allows the ML-ETR to operate without affecting the substantive law. The adoption of the principle of technology neutrality allows to accommodate the use of all methods and technologies, including blockchain distributed ledgers).


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