An electronic signature, or eSignature, is an online legal means for getting approval of documents or forms. Electronic signatures cover different types of signing documents electronically. The good news is that, in most countries and regions, eSignatures are legally enforceable and considered as legally binding as pen-and-paper signatures.
- How is an electronic signature defined?
- Are electronic signatures legally binding?
- What are the benefits of electronic signatures?
- What are the different types of electronic signatures?
How is an electronic signature defined?
The US Federal ESIGN Act defines eSignatures as "an electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record."
An e-signature is basically the image of your signature on a document that shows your consent on a document or form and is considered a legally-binding replacement for handwritten signatures.
Are electronic signatures legally binding?
The short answer is Yes. E-signatures are legally enforceable as handwritten signatures and can be admissible in a court of law if specific criteria are met. Bear in mind that based on your location and the eSignature solution you are using, you may need to meet specific requirements to make sure your signed documents are legally binding and compliant to regional standards.
In the United States, electronic signatures are legally enforceable under the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce (ESIGN) Act and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA), as long as specific basic requirements are satisfied. Some of these requirements are:
- There must be a legitimate intent to sign by the document signer.
- All parties involved must consent to do the business electronically.
- The electronic signature solution in use must keep an associated record that reflects the process by which the signature was created.
- The electronic signature solution in use must accurately reflect the agreement and can be reproduced as required.
In the European Union (EU), electronic signatures are considered a legally-binding solution and can be admissible as evidence in EU courts as long as they comply with the eIDAS Regulation (electronic IDentification, Authentication and trust Services).
What are the benefits of electronic signatures?
When it comes to the benefits of an e-signature solution for making agreements online, being legally binding and saving paper, time, and money stand out.
In general, some of the main benefits of using electronic signatures are:
- They are legally binding and can be admissible in a court of law.
- They boost productivity across the team.
- They save you tons of time by speeding up the whole process of signing.
- They save paper and help you get one step closer to an eco-friendly office.
What are the different types of signing a document electronically?
The eIDAS Regulation defines three different types of electronic signatures that vary in terms of being legally binding and the area of applications:
- Simple electronic signature (SES)
- Advanced electronic signature (AES)
- Qualified electronic signature (QES)
Overall, eIDAS define electronic signatures, “data in electronic form which is attached to or logically associated with other data in electronic form and which is used by the signatory to sign.” Electronic signatures can be as admissible as handwritten signatures when specific requirements are also taken into account.