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Electronic signatures receive approval from Law Society

26th July 2016

The Law Society of England and Wales have moved to clarify the legal position of electronic signature and have endorsed their use.

The move follows the implementation of the European-wide Regulation (EU) N°910/2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market (otherwise known as eIDAS Regulation) on 1st July 2016 which establishes “that a qualified electronic signature shall have the equivalent legal effect of a handwritten signature.”

The practice note, entitled “Execution of a document using an electronic signature,”[1] identifies a number of ways electronic signatures can be executed, and clearly states:

“The test for determining whether or not something is a signature is whether the mark which appears in a document was inserted in order to give, and with the intention of giving, authenticity to it. Therefore, provided that the signatory inserts an electronic signature into the appropriate place (e.g. next to the relevant party’s signature block) in a document with the intention of authenticating the document, a statutory requirement for that document to be signed will be satisfied.”

From a practical point of view this widens the scope of electronic signatures to be used in many everyday undertakings; and from a property sector point of view has the potential to make transactions run more smoothly.

Estate and lettings agents and solicitors can use electronic signatures in statutory documents which have traditionally required “wet signatures,” such as engagement documentation (terms of business and client care documentation) and preparatory documentation including property information forms/ fixtures and fittings forms etc.

This enables both local and remote buyers and sellers to engage with your business without the need to be delayed by the sending and receiving of paper documentation, or the need for them to physically visit your office. This has the potential to increase the speed of your client dealings and improve their experience of your service.

 

[1] http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/support-services/advice/practice-notes/execution-of-a-document-using-an-electronic-signature/

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