Is Contract by E-mail Legally Binding
Is Contract by E-mail Legally Binding Electronic contract have been derived from Electronic Commerce. Electronic Commerce, as the name suggests, is the practice of buying and selling goods and services through online consumer services.E-commerce is a rebellion against distance. You can enter into an agreement for sale with a seller located 1000 miles away just at the click of a button.
In the arena of the Internet, particularly of online commerce, the model made by United NationCommission on International Trade-Related Law (UNCITRAL) is the most significant legislation in force.
INTERNATIONAL MODEL LAW
In the Information Technology Bill of 1998, prepared by the UNICTRAL, it is mentioned that a contract made by the exchange of data messages is valid. Therefore, it can be said that a contract made online by the exchange of data will be valid.
Indian law is quite liberal when it comes to the legality of contracts. It states that even an oral contract is valid except in some cases. As per the Indian Evidence Act, e-mail communication and other electronic communication is recognised as valid in a Court of law. It can be concluded that Indian law does recognise that online contracts are valid. The online contract is nothing but communication between two parties resulting in a transfer of goods/services. In addition, if the communication is recognised as valid as evidence, then it follows that the contract that follows the communication is valid too.
An electronic contract is an agreement created and signed in electronic form, and in such cases, no hard copies of papers are used. The effectiveness of E-Commerce is based on electronically made contracts known as E-Contracts. An E-Contract is an aid to drafting and negotiating successful contracts for consumer and business e-commerce and related services. The main purpose of E-contract is to assist people in formulating and implementing commercial contracts policies within e-business.
E-contracts can be categorised into two types- web-wrap agreement and shrink-wrap agreement. Web wrap agreements are a web-based agreement which requires assent of the party by way of clicking the “I agree” or “I accept” button. Shrink-wrap agreements are those, which are accepted by a user when a software is installed from a CD- ROM.
Electronic contracts are the same as any other hard copy contracts as far as evidentiary value is concerned and in case of any discrepancy, there are certain requirements that are to have complied. All electronic contracts are valid contracts as they are legalised by the Information Technology Act and one could be liable if there is any infringement with the terms and conditions. Emails and other electronic documents are admissible as evidence in courts in India and may be used in the formation of contracts. Changes have been made to the Indian Evidence Act to address this issue. Evidence means and includes—
- All statements which the court permits or requires to be made before it by witnesses in relation to the matter of fact under inquiry, such statement is called oral evidence.
- All documents including electronic records produced for the inspection of the Court. Such documents are called documentary evidence. The term “electronic records” has been defined under the Information Technology Act, 2000, according to which it means data, record or data generated, image or sound stored, received or sent in an electronic form or micro film or computer generated micro fiche. Section 65B of the Evidence Act provides that subject to certain conditions, electronic records are admissible as evidence.
Electronic records are admissible as evidence as documents and there is specific recognition of electronic records in exchange of emails that would satisfy the criteria that would lead to the formation of valid contracts. Additionally, the Information Technology Act has expressly recognised electronic contracts to be valid under Section 10A, if it meets the other criteria of a valid contract under the Indian Contract Act.