In the interests of business efficacy and facilitating effective communication with customers, regulation of disclosure and contract documentation should be technology neutral such that documents may be provided by, and signed by electronic means, subject, where necessary, to some limited clear and consistent exceptions.
We agree with the Interim Report’s findings that there are developments that have been made in technology and the electronic delivery of financial services to customers, but that this is being hampered by regulation of disclosure documents that is fragmented, with different regulations applying in different sectors and to different products. In our view, there needs to be a consistent approach to regulation of electronic documentation across the various legislation and codes to make it clear that consumers can consent (expressly, including electronically, or impliedly) to documents being provided electronically and that regardless of their form applications and contracts can be signed electronically.
Further, we believe that the regulation in this area should be broad enough to allow for technological developments. For example, ASIC Regulatory Guide 221 and Class Order [CO 10/1219] have clarified online disclosure of financial services disclosure documents, with Product Disclosure Statements (PDS), Financial Services Guides and Statements of Advice, now being able to be delivered by sending clients an email or written notice (in paper or electronic form) with a hyperlink to the disclosure. However, this focuses on disclosure via email and websites and may be too narrow to facilitate the use of new technologies such as disclosure via mobile phone apps and social media.
In our submission we have identified that removing these impediments and unifying the approach across the different products, legislation and industry codes will reduce the costs of providing upfront and ongoing disclosure as well as facilitate the receipt of customer applications, consents and acceptance through electronic facilities. Improving regulation of electronic disclosure documentation will also assist organisations to better achieve the overall aims of disclosure and allow businesses more freedom to develop ways to best inform consumers who are time poor and often disengaged using new technologies for this purpose.