Services
People
News and Events
Other
Blogs

COVID 19: The increased use of electronic signatures

View profile for Jonathon Holyhead
  • Posted
  • Author
COVID 19: The increased use of electronic signatures

The precautions being put into place in the United Kingdom to address the spread of Coronavirus (COVID 19) includes, requiring many people to work from home.

Birkett Long is no different, our staff are now working remotely. I myself have now had to take the decision to work from home, which raises many challenges and questions.

One of the questions this situation has raised is: How to execute documents in these circumstances and is it possible to legally execute documents by electronic signature?

The answer is that the appropriate method of execution will depend on the specific facts of each individual matter. Relevant factors include:

  • the governing law of the document, 
  • the type of document that is to be signed and, 
  • the form of electronic signature used.

Additionally, another restriction would be if there were any cross-border implications to be considered.

E-signatures under English law

Electronic signatures are valid under English law. This is the view of the Law Commission, set out in its 2019 report Electronic execution of documents (the Report), which was endorsed by the UK Government in a Ministerial Statement on 3 March 2020.

The summary below outlines how documents can be executed. There are three different methods of digitally signing documents, these are:

1. Email signing

  • execution document sent by email to party;
  • signature page or whole document is printed, signed, scanned (or photographed) and returned by email in accordance with agreed signing instructions.

2. Jpeg signature

  • a pdf or jpeg of a signatory’s signature is saved, for example, onto a computer;
  • the jpeg signature is applied as required to an electronic document.

3. E-signing platforms

  • these are cloud based systems;
  • a signatory opens a link sent by email and clicks a tab or types their name to sign the document;
  • when each signatory has “signed” the platform applies a computer-generated signature of each party to the electronic document and creates a fully signed pdf version;
  • a digital certificate is produced recording who signed the document, the time and date of signing and the IP address of each signatory’s computer;
  • the executed pdf document is digitally sealed which will evidence any tampering with the document after signing.

This table is a high-level overview for the English and Welsh Jurisdiction, it is not a substitute for bespoke legal advice.

Email execution Jpeg signaturesE-signing platforms
Yes (including deeds)Yes (including deeds)Yes (including deeds)

Example of exception:

wet ink signatures are required for documents filed with the Land Registry

Example of exception:

wet ink signatures are required for documents filed with the Land Registry

Example of exception:

wet ink signatures are required for documents filed with the Land Registry

Additional conditions or considerations:

Satisfaction of procedural signing requirements for example, deeds must be physically whole when signed;

Any witness must be physically present and able to sign the attestation clause.

Additional conditions or considerations:

Satisfaction of procedural signing requirements for example, deeds must be physically whole when signed;

Any witness must be physically present and able to sign the attestation clause.

It is unlikely that certain banking  instruments (i.e. Promissory notes. Bill of exchange, Government promissory notes, Customs Receipts) can be signed electronically;

Necessary authority to attach a jpeg signature (if not the signatory sending the email).

Additional conditions or considerations:

Satisfaction of procedural signing requirements for example, deeds must be physically whole when signed;

Any witness must be physically present and able to sign the attestation clause.

It is unlikely that certain banking  instruments (i.e. Promissory notes. Bill of exchange, Government promissory notes, Customs Receipts) can be signed electronically;

Necessary authority to attach a jpeg signature (if not the signatory sending the email).

IT/cloud security requirements of all parties must be satisfied; no requirement for the signature to be a QES.

For a no obligation 15-minute phone call to discuss your business and how to protect your deals and business relationships, contact our specialist business lawyers. 

I am based in our Colchester office and can be contacted on 01206 217380 or jonathon.holyhead@birkettlong.co.uk.

Comments