Doing Business According to the British Law: Legality of E-Signature in the United KingdomReading Time: 3 minutes
Updated on 25.12.18.
What country pops into your head when you hear about red buses, Big Ben, or Sherlock Holmes? Of course, it is the UK. Well-known for its tourist attractions and cultural specificities, the United Kingdom is also quite successful in the economics department. And it is the UK’s economic achievements and laws that make the country really appealing for business.
However, to succeed in the present-day reality, modern companies have to keep up to date with the latest business technologies. Electronic signatures can serve as a great example of such popular and fast-growing business technology. And since one of our brainchildren is an e-signature software, KeepSolid Sign, we can help you learn all the pitfalls on this topic. So, if you are among the people who want to start a business in the UK or are already doing this, our detailed guide to British e-Signature law is definitely for you.
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E-Signature law in the UK
As we’ve mentioned in our previous article about the e-Signature legality by countries, the United Kingdom allows the usage of both electronic and digital signatures for business. Its legal model is called Tiered. This means that electronic signatures in the United Kingdom are generally court admissible, but in some cases you may need extra evidence to support them.E-Signatures in the UK are generally court admissible, but in some cases you may need extra evidence to support them Click To Tweet
At first, e-Signatures in the UK were only regulated by the Electronic Communications Act 2000 (ECA 2000). However, on July 1, 2016, the electronic identification, authentication, and trust services regulation (eIDAS) came into force and complemented the aforementioned act. In lay terms, the eIDAS is a set of standards for electronic identification that is supported by the EU countries. And even though the UK is intended to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, there is no discussions about a repeal of the eIDAS regulation in the country.
Limitations of the business use of e-signatures in the UK
Electronic Signatures in the United Kingdom have to meet one requirement: the process of e-Signing must indicate an intention to authenticate. There is no prescribed format for electronic signatures in the UK and, according to the eIDAS, it can generally be used in the following forms:
- Typewritten name
- Tick in a checkbox on a website or a simple button click (for instance, I agree)
- Scan of a handwritten signature
- Data in the electronic form with advanced level of security
- Digital signature that is created using Public Key Cryptography and Certificate Authority
The limitations to use, in turn, mostly concern documents that can’t be signed electronically. In the UK such documents are deeds (for example, deeds for the Land Registry), which must be signed only by hand. This is because in some cases e-Signatures make documents impractical. For instance, when it would be harder to validate an e-Signature in comparison to a handwritten one, where you can appeal to a forensic handwriting expert.
New e-Signature project: Electronic Execution of Documents
In January 2018, the UK Law Commission launched a new project called the Electronic Execution of Documents. This project came out of the 13th Programme of Law Reform to improve the legal framework in the smart contracts area. The key focus of this project is to remove any e-Signature limitations, current uncertainties in the law, and to allow witnessing e-Signatures via a webcam or video link.
On August 21, 2018, there was a public consultation where the UK Law Commission confirmed that British residents can e-Sign formal legal contracts. The public consultation on this subject was closed on November 23, 2018. You can read more about this topic on the official website of the Law Commission.
All in all, an electronic signature solution like KeepSolid Sign is an easy-to-use software for making any British office completely paper-free. It allows your company to avoid an old-fashioned print-sign-scan-send routine and saves you time and money. You can learn more about the advantages of paperless office in our previous article. If you still aren’t convinced about the convenience of e-Signature use, you can try it with our 14-day free trial and then make up your mind.