The Australian Registrars’ National Electronic Conveyancing Council (ARNECC) has published a Ministerial Directions Statement following a meeting on 18 October 2021 between relevant Ministers and representatives across all jurisdictions. The Statement outlines the progression of national e-conveyancing interoperability reform, with regulation rolling out from early 2022.
The interoperability reforms are designed to offer choice to Electronic Lodgement Network (ELN) subscribers, who must currently use the same Electronic Lodgment Network Operator (ELNO) to complete a transaction. Various government and non-government stakeholders have been campaigning for these reforms in recent years to help to support a sustainable and competitive e-conveyancing market structure across Australia.
It is intended that the changes will allow differing ELNO systems to communicate with each other, resulting in ELN subscribers being able to choose their preferred ELNO.
Over the past three years, progress to interoperability has included:
- The Electronic Conveyancing National Law (ECNL) Amendment Bill being made ready for targeted consultation;
- The initial version of the Application Programming Interface (API) specification being developed, with the design of the API specifications required for the first interoperable transaction in its final stages;
- The Model Operating Requirements (version 7) has been updated with stakeholder feedback, with the second round of consultation expected in November 2021; and
- A working group (observed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)) and consisting of jurisdictions, peak bodies and ELNOs continuing to work together to define the ELNO interoperability agreement
Feedback from incumbent ELNO, PEXA, suggested that a realistic timeframe for the first interoperable transaction would be October 2022. PEXA Chief Operating Officer Simon Smith said that PEXA’s approach was based on maintaining the security and reliability of Australia’s e-conveyancing system.
“Thousands of property transactions pass through the PEXA exchange every day so while we’re building for interoperability, we’re also ensuring the integrity of the most important purchase someone will ever make.”Simon Smith, PEXA Chief Operating Officer
Chair of the ACCC, Mr Rod Sims urged governments to include clear and accountable timeframes, and consequences for ELNOs not meeting these. As a result, all State and Territory ministers agreed to the following key dates for interoperability implementation:
- February 2022: NSW to introduce changes to the ECNL into NSW Parliament;
- 3rd Quarter 2022: Commence with ‘Day 1 transaction’ (slated to be a limited scope refinance); and
- Mid-2023: all interoperable transactions functional, with roll-out commencing across the jurisdictions in the second half of 2023.
Philip Joyce, CEO of Sympli said welcomed the positive outcomes of the October meeting, stating “The benefits [of interoperability] to customers and the industry are too great to allow any further delay.”
The relevant State Ministers are arranging for their jurisdictional approvals to be ready for introducing the changes to the national law in early February 2022, and for the Model Operating Requirements to require interoperability to be available by the first half of 2023.
The next meeting is expected to take place in early 2022, to coincide with the amendments to the ECNL.