Understanding eSignature Law and requirements in the United Kingdom and European Union


eIDAS and UK Electronic Signature Law

The UK Electronic Communication Act became law in the year 2000. DocuSign meets the definition of an electronic signature under the UK Electronic Communication Act.

For more information about eSignature legality in the United Kingdom and additional countries, the DocuSign eSignature Legality Guide provides an in-depth look into each country, in addition to both popular uses for electronic signatures, as well as transaction categories where electronic signatures may not be appropriate for each country.

eIDAS, the governing regulation on electronic transactions in the European Union is technology neutral, like the EU Directive on electronic signature before it. Under the eIDAS Regulation, an “electronic signature” is any data in electronic form that are attached to or logically associated with other electronic data that can service as a method of authentication. An electronic signature meeting this definition is recognized under eIDAS and is admissible as evidence, but other approaches, including Advanced electronic signature (AdES) and Qualified electronic signature (QES) are permitted.

UK eSignature law, different from the majority of EU member countries, does not give special status to any particular signature type or defined electronic signature technology standards, including those from ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) or CEN, the European Committee for Standardization.

DocuSign’s electronic signature solutions permit a range of methods for identifying and authenticating signers to cover the spectrum of different signature types defined by EU technology standards organizations. DocuSign’s support for these different signature types includes use of email, social network ID, access codes, SMS, phone and face-to-face verification, to uniquely link a signer to his or her electronic signature.

History of eSignature Law in the European Union

The eSignature Directive (1999/93/EC) established a Community framework for the use of electronic signatures on electronic contracts in Europe. More than 30 countries implemented the Directive. In 2014, the European Parliament repealed the 1999 ESignature Directive with the goal of creating a more uniform, pan-EU market for electronic transactions, replacing it with EU Regulation No 910/2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market, also known as eIDAS. The mandatory enforcement date of eIDAS for eSignature across all member countries is July of 2016.

NOTE: The law of electronic signatures in most countries spells out certain types of documents or document categories for which electronic signatures are not appropriate. Each customer should work with legal counsel to identify categories of exclusion in the relevant country, but common categories of exclusion are wills and trusts, powers of attorney, and declarations given under oath.