In the final report of a government-commissioned study of the law concerning the electronic execution of documents, The Law Commission states that in ‘most cases’, electronic signatures are valid and can be used as a viable alternative to handwritten ones. The conclusion emerges in a 124-page study of statute, common and case law.
Businesses and individuals already sign millions of contracts electronically every day but despite this, the commission says some parties still have concerns over whether an electronic signature can be used in particular situations. The Law Commission report states that ‘an electronic signature is capable in law of being used to execute a document (including a deed), provided that the signatory intends to authenticate the document and that any relevant formalities, such as the signature being witnessed, are satisfied. The Commission’s view is based upon legislation and court decisions which relate to both non-electronic and electronic signatures.’
Stephen Lewis, Commercial and Common Law Commissioner, said: ’Our report aims to provide an accessible statement of the law which makes it clear that an electronic signature can generally be used in place of a handwritten signature as long as the usual rules on signatures are met.’ The Law Commission states that ‘The common law in England and Wales has always been flexible in recognising a range of types of signature, including signing with an ‘X’, initials only, a printed name, or even a description of the signatory such as ‘Your loving mother’, the report states. The courts have accepted electronic forms of signatures including a name typed at the bottom of an email or clicking an ‘I accept’ tick box on a website. These court decisions supplement the EU eIDAS regulation which came into effect in 2016.’
Despite the positive findings, the commission makes several recommendations to address some of the practicalities of electronic execution and the rules for executing deeds. The Law Commission recommend setting up an industry working group to consider practical and technical issues around electronic signatures and provide best practice guidance for their use in different types of transactions.
Redbrick Solutions’ electronic signatures can save time and money and provide a better client experience. Our secure document portal gives you the option to ask your client to electronically sign any document you upload. You can ask for one, or multiple signatures, as required. The client will be notified that they are required to electronically sign the document and you will be notified once they have done so. This will save both you and your client valuable time. Electronic signatures are also secure, as the client will have had to verify their identity and pass two factor authentication before being able to access the documents. There is no printing or storage required as everything is held eletronically and the client can choose to sign documents and complete forms at a time that is convenient to them, without having to travel to the law firms office.