Electronic signatures consultation

England and Wales

A key project of the Law Commission’s 13th Programme of Law Reform recently announced relates to electronic signatures (”e-signatures”).

E-signatures are regularly used particularly in finance and corporate transactions. They allow for added flexibility and speed in the execution of documentation, can provide extra assurance on the identity of the signatory, as well as reducing the amount of paperwork and making it easier to electronically store documents.

However, there is no case law or legislation that actually states that documents executed with an e-signature satisfy existing statutory requirements for the execution of documents. Currently, the opinions of Counsel and Law Society practice notes are used to provide comfort that e-signatures are valid.

The Law Commission’s project will relate not only to electronic contracts relating to land, but will address any uncertainty over the validity of e-signatures in all types of contracts. The hope is that overcoming any legal uncertainty over the validity of e-signatures will encourage businesses to move towards fully electronic transactions, promoting greater time-savings and efficiencies.

The expected duration of the project is 9 – 18 months.

Click here for the Law Commission’s report.