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New law: Businesses plan use of electronic trade documents under new law

Author: Atom Content Marketing

Published: 01 Sep 2023

Businesses are preparing to take advantage of a new law which will allow them to use electronic trade documents in place of certain paper documents, with the same legal effect.

This will allow laws such as those relating to bills of exchange to apply to electronic trade documents as they do to the current paper documents.

An electronic document can only be used under the new law if the paper document it is replacing is commonly used in one or more parts of the UK in connection with the trade or transport of goods (or related financing), and law or commercial custom must require a person to possess the document in order to enforce an obligation in it. The new law includes a (non-exhaustive) list of such documents, including bills of exchange, promissory notes, bills of lading, ships' delivery orders, warehouse receipts, mates' receipts, marine insurance policies and cargo insurance certificates.

Traders must use a ‘reliable system’ – this is not defined, although commercial providers are already developing systems with a view to eventually marketing them - to identify and distinguish electronic trade documents from copies, stop anyone making unauthorised alterations to them, and ensure that only one person at a time can control them.

Operative date

  • 20 September 2023


  • Businesses planning to use electronic trade documents should investigate which providers are developing reliable systems, and their features and benefits.

This article from Atom Content Marketing is for general guidance only, for businesses in the United Kingdom governed by the laws of England. Atom Content Marketing, expert contributors and ICAEW (as distributor) disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions.

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Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.