Law Commission’s report on Electronic execution of documents

25/09/19 – Following a project focusing on uncertainties regarding the formalities around the electronic execution of documents, the Law Commission issued its report on Electronic execution of documents on 6th September 2019.

Key takeaways:

  1. Electronic signatures can be used to execute documents, including where there is a statutory requirement for a signature.
  2. An electronic signature is capable in law of being used to execute a document (including a deed), as long as the signatory intends to authenticate the document and any relevant formalities, such as witnessing, are satisfied.
  3. English courts have traditionally been flexible in recognising different form forms of signature, including electronic signatures such as a name typed at the bottom of an email, or the ticking of an “I accept” box on a website.
  4. The approach of the UK courts is consistent with the EU eIDAS Regulation (EU/910/2014), which states that an electronic signature cannot be denied legal validity because it is electronic.
  5. There is uncertainty whether deeds can be witnessed remotely via video witnessing.  The Law Commission’s view is that it is not currently legally permitted.

The Law Commission’s recommendations include:

  1. Establish an industry working group to consider practical and technical issues around electronic signatures, and provide best practice guidance for their use in different types of transactions.
  2. Industry working group to review video witnessing of deeds, and government to consider appropriate legislative reform.
  3. Review the law of deeds, and consider whether deeds remain fit for purpose (whether executed on paper or electronically).
  4. Government to consider codifying the law on electronic signatures to improve the accessibility of the law.

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