Electronic signatures – a farewell to the “wet ink” requirement?

  • Posted

The Law Commission has recently clarified the validity of electronic signatures – even statutory requirements for a signature which predate computers can be satisfied by a digital version of a signature. Charlotte Newlyn, a Solicitor in IBB’s Corporate and Commercial team, looks at the Law Commission’s advice and how far it may reach.

We are all becoming more used to seeing a – sometimes slightly pixelated – copy of a sender’s signature at the bottom of letters or documents, but until now it was unclear just what legal force these digital signatures held.

Law Commission’s Advice

The advice came as a result of a study of statute, common and case law surrounding the use of electronic execution of documents and the legality and validity of such methods.

In short, digital signatures on all documents, including deeds, will be held to be valid, provided that the signatory intended to sign the relevant document and that all further requirements are satisfied, such as witnessing.

Skype Witnessing?

In light of the above advice, some have begun to wonder about the other possibilities technology provides, such a remote witnessing.

The Law Commission have, however, curbed any such expectations by confirming that “our view is that the requirement… is that a deed which must be signed “in the presence of a witness” requires the physical presence of that witness”.

Other requirements

Despite this significant step in the execution of documents and deeds, the Law Commission has made it abundantly clear that all other requirements regarding the execution of the specific document or deed must be met in order for the electronic signature to be valid, including having an appropriate witness present when you electronically sign the document, for example.

Contact IBB’s Corporate and Commercial team for more information

If you have a document which you require assistance with, or you would like advice with regards to any Corporate or Commercial issues, please contact the team at IBB on corporate@ibblaw.co.uk or call 01895 207264.