Are electronic signatures legally binding in the UK?

‘Wet-ink’ signatures are difficult when most people in the UK are working from home. The COVID-19 pandemic has led many businesses to rely on electronic signature platforms. But are electronic signatures valid?

Whether a signature is valid under English law is complicated. It can depend on the person’s intention, or the type of document being signed.

For many transactions, simple electronic signature platforms can be a cost-effective, convenient and environmentally friendly way to sign deeds and contracts. For other documents, they are not appropriate.

What do you need to consider?

  1. Is a signature really necessary?
  2. Could it be admissible as evidence?
  3. Does it comply with mandatory signature requirements?
  4. Are you contracting with other legal entities? If so, in which jurisdiction are they based?

What practical steps can you take?

  1. You may want to consider whether to authorise additional individuals to sign contracts on your behalf, in case regular signatories are unable to sign. Board resolutions and powers of attorney can be used to authorise additional signatories.
  2. If you want to start using a digital signature platform, you will need to agree a licence for the product and arrange training for your signatories to use the platform.
  3. Where signatories are home working, you will want to ensure that you are able to access signature documents remotely, print signature pages as necessary and (where copy signatures are sufficient) scan back or provide a jpeg of signature pages.

We’ve written a detailed article and produced a short video explaining how transactions can still be completed during the COVID-19 pandemic using electronic signature platforms.

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