The following Commercial guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:
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:
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
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.
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 communication, including:
a scanned signature
a typed name at the bottom of an email
a digitally drawn manuscript signature
using a ‘click-wrap’ acceptance button on a website (eg clicking ‘I accept’)
passwords or personal identification numbers (PIN)
a unique representation of characters
biometric data such as retina scans and digital finger printing
digital signatures produced cryptographically and inserted into the code of a document
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