Electronic signatures

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

  • Electronic signatures
  • What is an electronic signature?
  • The functions of an electronic signature
  • What is a digital signature?
  • Symmetric encryption (single key)
  • Asymmetric encryption (key pair)
  • Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)
  • Admissibility of electronic signatures under the law of England and Wales
  • General approach to admissibility of electronic signatures
  • Execution of electronic documents and the impact of the Mercury case
  • More...

Electronic signatures

Coronavirus (COVID-19): This Practice Note contains guidance on subjects potentially impacted by procedural changes in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. For updates on key developments and related practical guidance on the implications for lawyers, see: Coronavirus (COVID-19) toolkit. For links to resources when considering remote execution of documents when parties are not able to meet in person because of social distancing and self-isolation as a result of coronavirus, see also: Coronavirus (COVID-19)—remote execution of documents resources—checklist.

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. electronic signatures and Retained Regulation (EU) 910/2014, the UK eIDAS Regulation

  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.

We have produced a toolkit that is a comprehensive, interactive resource to help users identify and work through the concepts and common issues when executing documents, including when using electronic signatures. Each section or phase

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