The Law Commission has confirmed in a report that electronic signatures can be used to execute documents, including where there is a statutory requirement for a signature.
The ruling means that electronic signatures can be used as a viable alternative to a written signature in most cases, including for lasting power of attorney cases.
The Law Commission published a report detailing the ruling, stating that despite electronic signatures being used frequently in contracts, there are still doubts about whether they can be used in certain situations.
An electronic signature can be used to execute a document as long as the signatory intends to authenticate it, and that any other requirements such as the signature being witnessed are fulfilled.
The common law in England and Wales is flexible with regards to the recognition of signatures, with instances of initials, the letter ‘X’ and descriptions being accepted by the courts.
The Law Commission’s report has made a series of recommendations, including that an industry working group is created to consider the practical and technical issues surrounding electronic signatures while assisting with guidance on specific situations.
The report also recommends that the industry working group considers the practicality of video witnessing while urging the Government to consider legislative reform to assist this. It also urges the Government to consider reform to codify the law on electronic signatures to improve the accessibility of the law.
Stephen Lewis, Commercial and Common Law Commissioner, said: “Electronic signatures can offer quicker and easier transactions for businesses and consumers.
“Our report aims to provide an accessible statement of the law which makes it clear that an electronic signature can generally be used in place of a handwritten signature as long as the usual rules on signatures are met.”