e-signatures: Are they legal?

2nd December 2022

As we continually move from the analogue to the digital age, approving business documents by e-signature is becoming evermore common place. In response to this, The Law Society have just issued an updated practice note.

This practice note sets the scene by recognising that e-signatures can be in various forms:

  • name typed on a document
  • inserted signature image
  • web based typed in signing platform
  • touch screen signature

For a document to be validly executed, such an e-signature must be inserted in the appropriate place (usually next to the relevant party’s signature ‘block’) so as to give authenticity to the document.

Simple contracts can be concluded orally or in writing, including with acceptance being evidenced by e-signature. However, it is noted that certain documents (including guarantees, land transactions and stock transfers) must still be in writing, signed by hand.

Leading Counsel has advised that, if the authenticity of a document signed using an e-signature were to be challenged, an English court would accept the document bearing the e-signature as prima facie evidence that the document was authentic and, unless the opponent adduced some evidence to the contrary, that would be sufficient to deal with the challenge.

Disclaimer - All information in this post was correct at time of writing.
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