Electronic signatures have been legally binding for more than ten years in the US, EU and many other countries. However, the adoption rate only started to accelerate over the past few years. Initial hurdles included the significant up-front costs of the first solutions, the typical reluctance to try new technologies and concerns over legality. In the US, for instance, it is not sufficient for something to be legal; many enterprises would want to confirm that it could withstand a court challenge.
Sufficient time has elapsed since laws were enacted for the solutions to become more elegant, powerful and affordable, for the return on investment to be proven beyond doubt and for a sufficient number of electronic signatures to be declared valid in courts of law.
Each country has its own set of guidelines as to what constitutes a legally valid electronic signature. The US has the Federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (“ESIGN”) and state-level Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (“UETA”). The European Union issued European Directive 1999/93/EC and China has the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Electronic Signature. Some information and links on electronic signature laws can be found on Wikipedia.
While the act of signing, whether using click-to-sign, biometric or other esignature types, is an integral part of an electronic signature, compliance and best practices focus also on ancillary issues including consent, providing alternatives, signer authentication, signature verification and providing proof of intent in the event of an attempted repudiation. For example, pasting a digital image of a handwritten signature in a Word document or embedding it in a PDF would not constitute a legally binding esignature in most jurisdictions.
As an electronic signature leader, iSIGN has been an integral part of the dialogue and innovation that has made electronic signatures an increasingly accepted business technology tool. We provide our clients with legally binding and fully compliant electronic signature solutions.