Electronic signatures
Electronic signatures

The following Commercial guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Electronic signatures
  • What is an electronic signature?
  • Admissibility of electronic signatures under the law of England and Wales
  • Statutory requirements—‘in writing’, ‘signed’ and ‘under hand’ in England and Wales
  • Applicable EU Law
  • Conflicts of law issues and other considerations
  • Frequently asked questions

Brexit: As of exit day (11pm on 31 January 2020) the UK is no longer an EU Member State. However, in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK has entered an implementation period, during which it continues to be subject to EU law. This has an impact on this Practice Note. For further guidance, see Brexit Bulletin—key updates, research tips and resources and Brexit toolkit.

An electronic signature is the electronic equivalent of a handwritten signature and links a person to the contents of an electronic document.

This Practice Note considers:

  1. what is an electronic signature?

  2. admissibility of electronic signatures under the law of England and Wales

  3. statutory requirements—‘in writing’, ‘signed’ and ‘under hand’ in England and Wales

  4. applicable EU Law

  5. conflicts of law issues and other considerations

  6. frequently asked questions

This Practice Note focuses on the general position under the law of England and Wales regarding commercial contracts in a business to business context. Readers should note that specific issues may arise in particular transactions, for example as a result of laws applicable to consumers.

What is an electronic signature?

The basic statutory definition of an electronic signature (discussed below) is broad and requires only that one set of data be attached to another set of data for the purposes of signature. This can theoretically apply to most types of electronic