How DocuSign supports electronic and digital signatures in conveyancing 

In July 2020, HM Land Registry (HMLR) started accepting Witnessed Electronic Signatures (WES).  Since then, HM Land Registry has been exploring the possibilities and practicalities of using Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES) as it believes that, in the longer-term, Qualified Electronic Signatures potentially provide a more secure and convenient option for conveyancing. 

Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES) are different to Witnessed Electronic Signatures (WES), and do not require a witness as they have an embedded identity check within them.

In this article, we look at the two types of signatures, and how DocuSign can support them both. 

Witnessed Electronic Signatures (WES)

Witnessed Electronic Signatures (WES) are currently accepted by HM Land Registry. They replace wet-ink signatures and mirror the traditional process, requiring  the physical presence and signature of a witness. 

There are several key requirements for WES with HMLR, including:

(1) a need for physical presence of the witness and 

(2) a One Time Password (OTP) access authentication for the signatory AND the witness.

Following the acceptance of WES in conveyancing, DocuSign has been working closely with HM Land Registry and leading law firms in the UK in order to adapt our general eWitness capability and develop specific enhancements that align with the needs and requirements of conveyancers, including two-factor authentication for both the signer and the witness. 

eWitness is a feature of DocuSign eSignature that has been enhanced to provide an even faster and easier experience for all parties when signing and witnessing deeds electronically, while maintaining confidentiality. 

DocuSign was recently named "Disruptive Technology of the Year" at this year’s Legal Week Innovation Awards for our work in enhancing our eWitness feature to align with the HM Land Registry requirements. Here’s how eWitness can work for HM Land Registry deed transactions: 

For more details on how eWitness can help you meet HM Land Registry requirements, watch the video below: 

Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES)

HM Land Registry are exploring the possibilities and practicalities of QES as a possible alternative to WES for the digital future of conveyancing. 

Qualified Electronic Signatures are a type of digital signature that offers a heightened level of face-to-face identity verification when compared to standard electronic signatures. This verification removes the need for a witness. 

A digital signature is an electronic signature that uses a technology called a ‘digital certificate’ to authenticate the signer’s identity. Digital certificates indicate that signers have completed extra steps to confirm their identities. A signer’s digital certificate is used to create the signature and then attached to the signed document.

Digital certificates are issued by Certificate Authorities, also called Trust Service Providers. Once a Trust Service Provider issues a digital certificate, it can be stored on a smart card, USB drive, local computer, mobile phone, or in the cloud.

Qualified electronic signature (QES) include a qualified digital certificate that indicates that identity verification has been completed face-to-face. The qualified certificates can only be issued by a Qualified Trust Service Provider (QTSP) authorised by regulatory bodies who assess the QTSP security standards.

DocuSign is a QTSP in Europe on the EU Trust List, which means DocuSign is authorised to issue Qualified signatures across the European Union which are also accepted in the UK. 

DocuSign offers multiple options for QES with face-to-ace identity verification options. DocuSign accepts all qualified certificates issued by TSPs on the EU Trust List that your signer already possesses. Alternatively, DocuSign integrates with several qualified TSPs of choice.

Next steps: 

DocuSign is honoured to be in a position where we can support our customers with both Witnessed Electronic Signatures and Qualified Electronic Signatures. 

We are further energised by the opportunity to continue to collaborate with both the innovative leadership of the HM Land Registry and leading UK law firms in continuing to further improve the digital UK land registration experience. 

Stephanie Liais
Senior Product Marketing Manager