The government have consulted independent legal experts to sweep away the current uncertainty surrounding the legality of electronic signatures. The government have published early conclusions which make it clear that electronic signatures can now be used on formal contracts in English law. The commission has also laid out possible steps which could boost business by proposing that electronic signatures could be witnessed by webcam or video link and that the formation of a government backed industry working group to consider the ongoing practical issues around the use of electronic signatures and how these can be improved.
Contract law in the UK is flexible but some businesses are still unsure whether electronic signatures would satisfy legal requirements, the commission have confirmed they do potentially paving the way for much quicker transactions for businesses and consumers. EU regulations state that an electronic signature cannot be denied validity simply because it is electronic and that electronic signatures are admissible in evidence in legal proceedings. While there is a UK statute which mirrors the admissibility provision, it does not expressly provide for the validity of the electronic signature. Hopefully following the final report of the commission later this year, the situation will be soon remedied in UK Law. Please contact Ian Furness on 01924 443900 if you want to discuss this article or need any further information.