The legality of document signing via electronic signatures for various processes is a question we often get asked. We have written a Legal Blog in the past and published information on the Legal Page of our website to assist people in understanding the legal admissibility of esignature technology, not just in general, but in user specific situations.
In some practices there is still uncertainty on the validity of using an esign solution. This is largely due to the lack of clarity in current legislation around the formality and execution of documents via electronic signatures. This led to the Law Commission being asked by the Ministry of Justice to complete a comprehensive report on the validity of electronic signatures which began in January 2018.
The Law Commission had to consider the problems surrounding the law in relation to legally binding electronic signatures and whether legislative reform was required to address outstanding issues. The scope of the project was to focus on documents which are required by law to be 'signed' and documents which are required by law to be executed as deeds. The report is expansive for any signing process, where digital signing of an electronic document can replace handwritten signatures.
The Law Commission has recently published its provisional findings in support of the validity of electronic signatures. They state that current legislation sufficiently accommodates their use and that they satisfy the statutory requirement for a signature.
Can a document be legally ‘e-signed?
In its report, the Law Commission set’s out its provisional conclusion that "under the current law, an electronic signature is capable of satisfying a statutory requirement for a signature, where there is an intention to authenticate the document". Relevant Case Law is also attached. The report also acknowledges that even though some parties want to point at a black and white statutory statement that an electronic signature is as valid as a handwritten, there is no requirement of legislative reform as It believes current legislation sufficiently accommodates electronic signatures.
E-Signing of deeds
The report also discusses the requirement for the execution of deeds, which in addition to signing require the formality of witnessing, attestation and delivery.
Given the conclusion that an electronic signature fulfils the statutory requirement for document execution, the Law Commission also found that the requirement for witnessing may be satisfied by a witness watching an electronic signature being applied from within the same location. However due to the complexities around this, the Law Commission is exploring optional areas of reform ranging from video linking to a move away from the requirement of witnessing with the use of certain types of digital signatures that utilise additional authentication processes.
The use of electronic signatures to securely complete online contracts and legal documents is growing, and with the Law Commission confirming the validity of electronic signatures, it is anticipated that those who have sat on the fence regarding them for the last few years will most likely review their processes.
Electronic signatures are proven to speed up document completion time, improve documents considered to be Not In Good Order (NIGO), reduce the amount of admin time and money spent on paper based processes and provide a more secure method for document transactions.
If you want to find out how to digitally sign documents, or even if you are looking for a new signature solution, get in touch with the worlds leading authority. E-Sign is working with organisations from a range of different industries on their digital transformation strategies. Get in touch today.Share comments powered by Disqus