E-Sign solutions have over the years attracted mixed reactions and debates among consumers with critics going to the extent of questioning their validity.
The uncertainty surrounding eSignatures, many professionals and businesses have been slow to take advantage of free eSign software to enhance efficiency in their operations. On the other hand, there are those enjoying the full benefits of embracing electronic signatures. A recent report confirming electronic signatures as valid in the UK will only arouse increased curiosity eSignatures. With many people, organizations and sectors in the UK demanding improved efficiency, convenience, transparency, the country couldn’t have made a better decision than consenting on the legality of electronic signatures. Interestingly, tech-savvy businesses in the UK and other countries are already utilizing electronic signatures to better their operations.
After the report, this technological development is expected to turnaround millions of lives in the UK. People will have more confidence binding transactions digitally knowing that electronic signatures can be used validly just like the traditional handwritten signatures they were accustomed to. Whether the UK can keep up with the trend or not is up to them. For now, what matters is that electronic signatures’ legal status has been confirmed. Individuals and businesses are free to engage online electronic signature service providers to help them go paperless without fear. Whilst doubters are still debating on whether electronic signatures can be applied in some sensitive situations, the commission cleared the uncertainty around the technology that limited millions of people from using the technology as a better alternative to handwritten signatures.
The practicality of electronic signatures
The Law commission lifted the lid on several concerns surrounding the practicality of electronic signatures. For starters, the UK increased confidence in the implementation of electronic signatures in a modernized world of business. At some point; Stephen Lewis, the commercial and Law Commissioner acknowledged the fact that indeed, eSignatures present a more efficient and accurate way for executing all sorts of business transactions as compared to the traditional way of signing documents.
Also, the report cleared doubts that electronic signatures were more vulnerable to fraud in comparison to handwritten signatures. Initially, businesses and individuals feared that using electronic signatures could jeopardize the integrity of sensitive documents. In short, the Law commission outlined that electronic signatures are legally binding as long as the set rules and regulations are not broken. The UK government is considering codifying the law on eSignatures for improved accessibility.
Factors making electronic signatures legal in the UK
In the latest report by the UK’s law commission, electronic signatures can be used to transact all kind of transactions provided the laid down rules and regulations are followed fully.
1. Intent to sign
Just like the case with handwritten signatures, eSign solutions are legal as long as all formalities are laid down. Electronic signatures can only be considered as legal if all signers show their uncompromised intent to authenticate the involved documents. With all parties demonstrating their desire to sign, execution of electronic signatures can be used to transact business or individual deals with full protection of the law. On the other hand, everything becomes complicated should one party decide to pull out of a deal that requires to be electronically signed. All parties must give their consent on the content of a document they are meant to sign, otherwise forcing anyone to sign something they do not consent to can have legal repercussion afterwards.
2. Consent to do business electronically
Whilst legalization of electronic signatures in the UK has triggered led to many people taking advantage of free software to create digital signature for their businesses, all involved parties must give consent to do business electronically for them to be legally binding. In reality, it is extremely difficult to conduct any business transaction with an unwilling party. Respective signers must show and prove their willingness to conduct business electronically for an electronic signature to be considered as legal under the UK law. This factor aims to protect individuals and businesses from fraudsters and imposters. In a world where hackers are sharpening their hacking skills 24/7, one can only be too careful lest they fall victim to tricksters.
3. Clear signature attribution
The law requires a clear signature attribution for all electronically signed documents. The good thing about esign solutions is that they make it easy for a detailed audit trail to be exercised as evidence of its legality. The integrity of e-Signed documents must not be compromised in any way for it to be deemed as legal. A thorough audit trail should cover all the involved signers’ IP addresses, and email IDs as proof that indeed; they willingly participated in the signing process. All details must be kept intact to validate their authenticity. A minor modification on an electronically signed document including a comma or space can put its integrity at risk.
4. Association of signature with the record
Electronic signatures have to be associated with the right documents. Unauthorized signers have no business transacting on your behalf. Unlike handwritten signatures which can easily be forged or modified, electronic signatures prevent forgers from using them for their selfish gains. In this effect, the law requires signers to associate themselves with their unique eSignatures on documents. Whilst no particular technology is 100% secure, electronic signatures offer accuracy and guaranteed security of data. If one signer distances themselves from an electronic signature appearing on a document with proof that they never signed it in the first place, then that particular e-signature becomes illegal by law.
5. Record retention
Online electronic signature service must be easy to trail and verify for its legality to stand. With electronic signatures, the identity verification process is easy. Various record retention methods used in verifying electronic signatures include verification SMS, electronic ID, and email among others. The stricter the security, the more legally binding an electronic signature becomes.
Electronic signatures are the future of doing business. Those opposing the technology should consider embracing it for the good of their businesses. After the UK, more countries are expected to declare electronic signatures as legal too. Only time will tell.