Pennsylvania Bill Would Give Legal Recognition to Online Contracts

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge is supporting a bill that would give the same legal recognition to electronic documents and signatures as paper contracts in the state.

Ridge's Electronic Transactions Act is similar to a bill passed in California last year that gives electronic contracts the same legal authority as traditional paper documents, said Kevin Dellicker, Pennsylvania's senior policy manager for economic development. "We've been working on the legislation since last summer," he said. "The point is, if you can do it on paper, you can do it electronically."

Dellicker said the bill is based on a national commission's recommendation for establishing uniformity in state legislatures regarding electronic transactions but with some "added Pennsylvania-specific" stipulations, including a provision that contracts cannot be denied legality solely because electronic records were used. "We amended the bill to reflect what we think is the best model for electronic transaction legislation," Dellicker said.

* Elsewhere on the electronic contract front, New York Gov. George Pataki recently signed into law a bill that makes electronic signatures legally binding in the state. Previous laws did not address the electronic commerce market, and business contracts lacked legal protection unless they were done on paper and signed by hand.

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