Electronic Communications Act 2000

The purpose behind the Electronic Communications Act 2000 (ECA) is to help the UK become the best and safest place to do electronic commerce.

The Act builds confidence in the use of electronic communications and creates the legal framework in which online business can thrive.

The Act comes in three parts: cryptography service providers; legal recognition of electronic signatures and delegated legislation (known as Section 8 Orders)


  • Cryptography service providers – arrangements for registering cryptography support services, for example electronic signature services and confidentiality services. tScheme was established as a co-regulatory regime to supervise these arrangements
  • Facilitation of electronic commerce, data storage etc – the legal recognition of electronic signatures and the process under which they may be generated, communicated and verified.
  • Delegated legislation – the power to introduce subordinate legislation to remove restrictions on using electronic communications instead of paper, known as Section 8 orders

A fourth area which simplified the process under which existing telecommunications licences could be modified has now been replaced by the Communications Act 2003.

Electronic Signatures Directive

The ECA partly transposes the European Union's Directive on Electronic Signatures (1999/93/EC). This allows for equal legal recognition of electronic and handwritten signatures. By early 2004, about 90% of UK businesses had access to the Internet and increasing numbers of these businesses are involved in e-commerce – ordering and paying online. Businesses need trust and confidence in trading electronically. They need to be certain that transmitted orders or invoices have not been altered, and that they are from whom they appear to be from. Businesses need to trust that others cannot access confidential or personal information.

Section 8 Orders

Modifies various provisions of the Companies Act 1985 (c. 6) for the purpose of authorising or facilitating the use of electronic communications between companies and their members, debentures holders and auditors, and between companies and the registrar of companies.

Allows electronic communication of final decision on amount of Housing Revenue Account subsidy

Allows electronic communication of final decision on amount of Housing Revenue Account subsidy in Wales

Amends the Unsolicited Goods & Services Act 1971 so as to make provision for orders to be placed electronically for directory entries.

Amends The National Health Service (Charges for Drugs and Appliances) Regulations 2000 to allow for the creation and transmission of prescriptions by electronic means

Amends The National Health Service (Pharmaceutical Services) Regulations 1992 to allow for the creation and transmission of prescriptions by electronic means

Amends The Prescription Only Medicines (Human Use) Order 1997, to permit National Health Service prescriptions which are issued as part of a pilot scheme on the use of electronic prescriptions, to be created, signed and transferred by electronic means

Provides that the Housing Corporation may use electronic communications to notify a registered social landlord in England that a dwelling is to be regarded, for the purposes of section 16 of the Housing Act 1996, as provided by means of a grant under section 18 (social housing grant).

Amends the Public Records Act 1958 to enable the Public Record Office to authenticate copies in electronic form of public records so as to make them admissible evidence in legal proceedings when they are viewed on the Public Record Office website.

Amends the Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations 1987, the Child Benefit (General) Regulations 1976, the Social Security (Guardian's Allowances) Regulations 1975 and the Social Security (Notification of Change of Circumstances) Regulations 2001 so as to make provision for claims for child benefit to be made electronically.

Modifies various provisions of the Building Societies Act 1986 (c.53) for the purpose of facilitating the use of electronic communications by building societies when sending notices and other documents to their members and to other persons, and when conducting voting in resolutions of the society and elections of directors.

Amends the Patents Act 1977 to facilitate the use of electronic communications with the Patent Office (now the Intellectual Property Office)

These Rules amend the Patents Rules 1995 They refer to directions which may be made by the Comptroller-General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks (“the comptroller”) under section 124A of the Patents Act 1977, which section is inserted into the Patents Act by The Patents Act 1977 (Electronic Communications) Order 2003 (See previous paragraph)

Authorises the use of electronic communications for the specific purpose of sending notices of appeal against planning enforcement notices to the Secretary of State.

This Order inserts or modifies provisions of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and secondary legislation made under that Act for the purpose of enabling and facilitating the use of electronic communications for concluding regulated agreements and when sending notices and other documents.

Allows for electronic conveyancing

Reference

Electronic Communications Act 2000 (ECA)

UK/2000/C/7