On Tuesday, 21st August 2018 The Law Commission — an independent body established by an act of Parliament in 1965 to examine legal developments in England and Wales — published their Electronic Execution of Documents consultation paper supporting the validity of electronic signatures.

A Significant Step

This announcement is a significant step forward for electronic signatures. Although both the EU-wide eIDAS regulation and the Electronic Communications Act 2000 stated that electronic signatures are admissible in evidence in legal proceedings, uncertainty remained which confused businesses and halted progress.

This consultation paper relieves confusion surrounding electronic signatures and fosters a healthy basis for future business adoption in Europe and beyond. It also offers reassurance that the drive to become digital and make business simpler and more efficient aligns with leading authorities.

Importantly, the Law Commission highlights key considerations necessary to satisfy legal formalities in an electronic context and considers practical issues, including evidential value, security, and reliability, that are critical to examine when deciding which electronic signature solution to adopt. 

Looking Ahead

The Law Commission is further investigating steps to improve electronic signatures laws and regulations, including the impact of technological advancements on the witnessing process. While recognising that witnessing fulfills an important evidentiary function, the paper signals an openness to explore new means of satisfying witness requirements. Two key concepts of particular interest are whether:

  • Webcam or video links could be used instead of a physical witness for documents that require witnessed signatures
  • We should move from traditional in-person witness signing platforms altogether.

As technologies, such as DocuSign, increasingly provide robust alternatives to in-person events, we welcome the acknowledgment of these advances and look forward to increasing acceptance of digital experiences.

At DocuSign, we are proud to be part of the advancement of eSignature over the years. Aided by the breakdown of regulatory barriers and the rise of global acceptance worldwide, DocuSign now has more than 400,000 customers and hundreds of millions of users in over 180 countries across the world. As we continue to invest in our System of Agreement platform — which has been deeply-rooted in security, reliability, and validity — we will eagerly watch as new developments in the coming year continue to shape the environment in support of digital transformation.

Louise Kennedy, EMEA General Counsel