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E-conveyancing reforms on track to begin next year

The first steps for e-conveyancing reform and regulation will roll out from early 2022, according to a ministerial statement.

The Australian Registrars’ National Electronic Conveyancing Council (ARNECC) has published a ministerial directions statement following the latest meeting over the national interoperability reforms to electronic conveyancing (e-conveyancing).

The 18 October meeting saw state and territory ministers, the chair and the commissioner of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and industry representatives join to discuss interoperability reform to support e-conveyancing – designed to enable legal practitioners, conveyancers and financial institutions to electronically prepare and lodge land property dealings with title registries.

Currently, all parties to conveyancing transactions must use the same Electronic Lodgment Network Operator (ELNO) to complete a transaction. 

Regulations and reform to e-conveyancing are intended to provide interoperability between ELNOs, allowing differing ELNO systems to communicate with one another while enabling practitioners to choose an operator of their choosing. 

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Over three years, the progress so far has included the Electronic Conveyancing National Law Amendment Bill being made ready for targeted consultation, the initial application programming interface (API) being developed by industry and jurisdiction officials, and updates to the National Model Operating Requirements; the seventh version now updated with stakeholder feedback. 

However, according to this latest statement, all involved state and territory ministers have agreed to three key dates for “implementation to deliver a secure national interoperability regime and effective competition”, with February 2022 expected to be when NSW will introduce changes to the national law into NSW Parliament. 

Following this, the third quarter of 2022 will be when the commencement of “Day 1 Transaction”, which is said to be a “limited scope refinance” that is “not available in the market generally”. 

By mid-2023, all interoperable transactions are expected to be functional with the roll-out commencing in jurisdictions during the second half of 2023. 

The statement suggests that state and federal ministers are “arranging for their jurisdictional approvals to be ready for introducing the changes to the national law in early February 2022”, as well as for the Model Operating Requirements to require interoperability to be available during the first half of 2023. 

Regarding this new timeline, certain industry representatives have welcomed the development, including Sympli Australia. 

Sympli was authorised to operate an electronic lodgement network on 21 November 2018, according to ARNECC. 

Speaking of the changes, Sympli chief executive Philip Joyce said in a separate statement: “Momentum to achieve the new mandated timeline will require cooperation from all stakeholders and a particular focus on managing risk and security. 

“Through the combined experience and technical capability of the organisations involved, we know it can be achieved, and we look forward to this being reflected in the regulation and legislation in time.”

Mr Joyce added that speculation over interoperability risks is “both unspecified and misplaced” and that he believes delays are providing a “very real cost” to consumers and businesses. 

“The good news is that interoperability also brings infrastructure resiliency. As we’ve seen in recent months, having only one network in the sector makes the whole system vulnerable if that one network fails,” Mr Joyce concluded. 

“The benefits to customers, and to industry are too great to allow any further delay, and this timeline ensures that competition is coming. I thank and acknowledge the hard work that has been done by key industry stakeholders to implement this vital timeline.”

[Related: 6 in 10 lenders want new data sources: Experian]

E-conveyancing reforms on track to begin next year
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