Electronic signatures and the law

What is an electronic signature?
An electronic signature is the electronic equivalent of a written signature and allows documents to be signed and business transactions to be carried out electronically. 
An electronic signature is not a picture of a handwritten signature but is an electronic means of connecting an individual with a document which also verifies the individual’s identity.

The use of electronic signatures is increasing for several reasons including the speed at which a document can be agreed and signed and the security a well established process can provide.

Is an electronic signature legally effective?
An electronic signature is capable of satisfying the legal requirement for the signing of a document and being enforceable. The key point is how the authenticity of the signatory is demonstrated. You should consider this carefully, because if the other party ever challenged the signature, you should be confident that your system can demonstrate that the signature did belong to them. This may be achieved by ensuring the signature is:
1. uniquely linked to the signatory 
2. capable of identifying the signatory
3. created by means the signatory can maintain under his sole control
4. linked to the data being signed such that any change of the data is detectable.

There is no prescription of exactly how you should obtain the signature to comply with the above, however the use of a secure signature creation device coupled with suitable technology is recommended (there is software available which provides this). In simple terms you should have systems in place which ensure the security of the document (i.e. it is only accessible by the signatory) and identify the signatory.

How we can help
We can:
Review your contracting processes and advise you how to implement an electronic signature system
Review your current electronic signature system
Assess the effectiveness of any software you may be considering to implement the process
Review a contract with an electronic signature software provider

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