In a long-awaited confirmation of the law, the Lord Chancellor yesterday confirmed that documents signed electronically do have legal force in England and Wales, even when a statutory requirement for a signature predates the digital age.
The Lord Chancellor confirmed the outcome of the Law Commission’s 2019 report, which found that in ‘most cases’, electronic signatures are capable in law of executing a document, including a deed, provided that the person signing intends to do so and that any further required formalities are satisfied.
Electronic signatures, affirmed the Lord Chancellor, ‘are permissible and can be used in confidence in commercial and consumer documents’.
Our Head of Dispute Resolution Jonathan Leach welcomes the decision, stating “this is a welcome announcement from the Lord Chancellor, bringing another area of the legal process into the 21st Century. We would however urge caution; whilst the signature might be added digitally, certain documents, such as deeds, have additional requirements to be valid.”
There was a concession in the Lord Chancellor’s statement that some issues aside from the position in law need further expert consideration, predominantly to ensure that allowing electronic signatures does not cause any adverse impact, particularly on vulnerable people. Such issues will be considered by an industry working group.
If you have any issues relating to disputes or the validity of a contract, we can help! Contact Jonathan on 01254 30 10 44, or complete our online enquiry form and one of our experts will contact you.