Documents signed electronically - even when a statutory requirement for a signature predates the digital age - have legal force, the Law Commission has said in an attempt to clear up lingering doubts over the issue, on 4 September 2019.
In the final report of a government-commissioned study of the law concerning the electronic execution of documents, the commission states that in ‘most cases’, electronic signatures can be used as a viable alternative to handwritten ones. The conclusion emerges in a 124-page study of statute, common and case law.
Businesses and individuals already sign millions of contracts electronically every day, from doorstep delivery receipts to multi-million pound currency deals. Despite this, the commission says some parties still have doubts over whether an electronic signature can be used in particular situations.
The report, addressed to the lord chancellor, opens with a two-page statement of the law as assessed by the commission. Overall it states that an electronic signature is capable in law of executing a document (including a deed) provided that the person signing intends to do so and that any further required formalities, such as a witness, are satisfied.