Signing on the dotted line... or not...
Ever since written agreements have been in place, a good few centuries or so, a party to a contract has indicated their agreement to it by signing on the dotted line. This may have been a mark with cross, an untidy scrawl or an elegantly flourished moniker, nonetheless a wet ink signature on a hardcopy piece of paper has historically been the most important part of sealing the deal.
In this digital age teenagers have long since said goodbye to painstakingly practised autographs in a jotter book. Instead, along with almost everything else that is becoming increasingly technology driven, electronic signatures now take many forms including a typed name, a scanned copy of one’s written signature, an “I accept” tick box, passwords and PINs.
Understandably, some businesses have concerns that a digital signature may not be accepted as valid if they are challenged in court. However, the Law Commission has recently ruled that the traditional handwritten signature is not the only way that an agreement may be signed. A change in the law is not required as the current combination of EU law, statute and case law provide that an e-signature satisfies the legal requirements for a signature, provided an ‘…authenticating intention can be demonstrated’.
So, almost 20 years after the Electronics Communications Act 2000 provided a statutory basis for electronic signatures, there is now clarity and confirmation that clicking on a button to effect an e-signature is equally as valid as the soon to be dusty and discarded, old-fashioned inscriptions.
This decision will go some way to helping businesses progress transactions more swiftly, but what is next… witnessing signatures by Skype or Facetime? Confirming the witnessing of those signatures by one’s own electronic signature…?