Everyone involved in agreements governed by English law will be pleased to hear that the UK Law Commission has confirmed that an electronic signature can be used to execute an English law document (including a deed) if:
- the person signing the document intends to authenticate the document; and
- any formalities relating to the execution of the document are satisfied.
Electronic signatures will be admissible in legal proceedings.
Formalities may be required by a statute or a contract or other private law instrument or by case law, for instance, that a document must be witnessed or that there must be a specific form of signature (such as being handwritten).
It has not yet been decided whether a deed can be witnessed through a video link and that is being considered.
This is a confirmation of the existing legal situation. Electronic signatures are more common than you think. Millions of people tick ‘I accept’ boxes on websites every day and this has been accepted by the courts. The courts have accepted names typed at the bottom of an email and the header of a SWIFT message as signature.
The English courts have also upheld the following non-electronic forms as valid signatures, namely signing with an ‘X’ or mark even where the person can write, initials only, stamp of a handwritten signature, printing of a name and an unambiguous description of the signatory such as ‘Your loving mother’.