E-signature Legality in United States
Electronic signatures are valid in the United States, under the federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (“ESIGN”). State law versions of the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (“UETA”) govern e-signatures as they apply to the different states. U.S. territories also have their own e-signature laws. The same applies to Puerto Rico. Local laws may also apply.
The ESIGN act sets forth a general rule of validity for electronic records and signatures for transactions in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce. It allows for the use of electronic records to satisfy any statute, regulation, or rule of law requiring that such information be provided in writing, if the consumer has affirmatively consented to such use and has not withdrawn such consent.
The text of the UETA defines a “transaction” as an action or set of actions occurring between two or more persons relating to the conduct of business, commercial, or governmental affairs. For these purposes, a “person” includes not just people but companies and other entities.
Virtually any type of document that can be signed by hand may also be signed electronically in the U.S. and its territories, but there are exceptions, including but not limited to documents that must be signed before a notary public. Consult your attorney before reaching any conclusions about whether the document you want to sign may be signed electronically.
E-signature Legality in Canada
Several Canadian provinces allow for electronic signatures, including British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec as of the last update of this page. At the federal level, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) governs e-signatures, and there are specific laws on e-signatures at the province level and in some cases locally.
Among other requirements, under PIPEDA, an electronic signature must result from the use by a person of the technology or process that is unique to the person, the technology or process by which a person electronically signs a document must be under the sole control of the person, and the electronic signature must be linked with an electronic document in such a way that it can be used to determine whether the electronic document has been changed since the electronic signature was made.
Like in the U.S., many different types of documents can be signed electronically, provided that the applicable laws are followed. Consult your attorney before reaching any conclusions about whether the document you want to sign may be signed electronically.
E-signature Legality in Australia
Electronic signatures are also valid in Australia, federally under both the Electronic Transactions Act of 1999 (Cth) (“ETA”) and the sub-regulations that are part of it, and the Electronic Transactions Regulations 2000 (Cth) (“ETR”). Australian states and territories also have their own e-signature laws, and there are some local laws as well.
The ETA states that a transaction under a Commonwealth law will not be invalidated simply because the signature is electronic.
If a Commonwealth law requires you to give information in writing, provide a handwritten signature, produce a document in material form, or record or retain information, the ETA allows you to do these things electronically. The ETA applies to all Commonwealth laws unless they are specifically exempted by the Electronic Transactions Regulations 2020.
Consult your attorney before reaching any conclusions about whether the document you want to sign may be signed electronically in Australia.
E-signature Legality in United Kingdom
Under eIDAS, there are different types of e-signatures, including “Standard” electronic signatures, “Advanced” electronic signatures, and “Qualified” electronic signatures. Each of these types of electronic signatures has its own requirements. eIDAS affects individuals, companies, public entities, and covers many different types of transactions. The good news is that e-signatures are valid for many types of documents in the U.K., provided that the laws are followed. Consult your attorney for advice.
E-signature Legality in New Zealand
Electronic signatures are generally accepted in New Zealand, for many types of business contracts, those involving real estate, and for contracts between individuals, among other types.
The requirements for an electronic signature to be valid include the following, among others:
- The means of creating the electronic signature must be linked to the signatory and no other person.
- The means of creating the electronic signature must have been under the control of the signatory and no other person.
- Any alteration to the electronic signature made after the time of signing is detectable.
- Where the purpose of the legal requirement for a signature is to assure the integrity of the information to which it relates, any alteration made to that information after the time of signing must be detectable.
Note: In some cases, a traditional “wet” signature may be required.
- The Contract and Commercial Law Act 2017(CCLA).
This page was last updated on October 4, 2022.
The information on this web page is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as legal advice or to state what the law is. Consult your attorney for legal advice regarding the topics discussed on this page.