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

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 communication, including:

  1. a scanned signature

  2. a typed name at the bottom of an email

  3. a digitally drawn manuscript signature

  4. using a ‘click-wrap’ acceptance button on a website (eg clicking ‘I accept’)

  5. passwords or personal identification numbers (PIN)

  6. a unique representation of characters

  7. biometric data such as retina scans and digital finger printing

  8. digital signatures produced cryptographically and inserted into the code of a document

For further