Guernsey leads the way on smart contracts

23 January 2019

Guernsey is demonstrating its global leadership in drafting new laws to offer certainty in the use of “Electronic Agents” in transactions and contract matters, and to create a smart, secure environment for the exploitation of technology for specialist financial services.

The lodging of the Electronic Transactions (Electronic Agents) (Guernsey), 2019, Ordinance this week offers greater certainty as the use of artificial intelligence and distributed ledger technology grows. It will boost confidence and enable adopters of technology solutions to use Guernsey.

“Our ability to respond quickly to change has long been one of Guernsey’s strengths and world-first confirmation of legal certainty underpinning the development of smart contracts and AI will be a powerful legislative tool kit for the island.”
Guernsey Finance Chief Executive Dominic Wheatley

The new law will allow the formation of a contract through the interaction of electronic agents, on the presumption that natural persons intended to create a legally binding contract.

It will also cover interactions between an electronic agent and a natural person. Electronic agents will be able to be involved in transactions in several ways without revoking the legal validity of a contract.

Guernsey Finance, Deputy Chief Executive, Strategy, Dr Andy Sloan said: “As outlined in the Financial Services Policy Framework, published in December, our strategy is to lead the way in the creation of a safe and secure environment for the adoption and exploitation of current and future technologies in the provision of specialist financial services.

“Guernsey has been open to the exploitation of technology in financial services and boasts many examples of excellence, including the world’s first commercial deployment of blockchain in private equity, market-based provision of electronic CDD services, and the world’s first listing on a regulated exchange of notes digitised on a blockchain by Northern Trust, The ID Register, and Solidum Re respectively.”

The new legal developments build on Guernsey’s existing Electronic Transactions legislation, which dates back to 2000, in offering express confirmation that so-called “smart contracts” – where computer code carries out a task in response to information received, without further human input – will be legally recognised.

The laws of most jurisdictions do not yet explicitly address electronic agents. Guernsey’s move is being seen as an important development in progressing the island’s digital ambitions, and positioning Guernsey law as the international law of choice for commercial contracts for those seeking to use smart contract technology.

Dominic Wheatley, Chief Executive of Guernsey Finance, the promotional agency for the island’s finance industry, said: “Our ability to respond quickly to change has long been one of Guernsey’s strengths and world-first confirmation of legal certainty underpinning the development of smart contracts and AI will be a powerful legislative tool kit for the island.”

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