The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) adopted the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records (the “MLETR”) on 13 July at its fiftieth session in Vienna.
The MLETR legally enables the use of electronic transferable records that are functionally equivalent to transferable documents and instruments including bills of lading, bills of exchange, promissory notes and warehouse receipts.
The use of electronic transferable records may bring a number of benefits to electronic commerce including speed and security of transmission as well as the possibility of reusing the information contained therein. Electronic transferable records may be particularly relevant for certain business areas such as transport and logistics and finance (fintech). Moreover, their use allows for the establishment a fully paperless trade environment.
The MLETR sets forth the requirements for the use of an electronic transferable record. In particular, it defines control as the functional equivalent of possession of a transferable document or instrument. The MLETR also provides guidance on the assessment of the reliability of the method used to manage the electronic transferable record, on change of medium (electronic to paper and the reverse), and on cross-border aspects, among other items.
The MLETR builds upon fundamental principles underlying existing UNCITRAL texts in the area of electronic commerce. In particular, the adoption of the principle of functional equivalence allows the MLETR to operate without affecting the substantive law applicable to transferable documents and instruments, and the adoption of the principle of technology neutrality allows to accommodate the use of all methods and technologies, including distributed ledgers (blockchain).
The MLETR is accompanied by an Explanatory Note that provides background information to assist States in enacting its provisions and to offer guidance to other users of the text.
The work on the preparation of the MLETR was undertaken by UNCITRAL Working Group IV (Electronic Commerce) from its 45th session in 2011 until its 54th session in 2016. The final version of the MLETR will be made available at UNCITRAL website.