Digital signatures are increasingly common, but the laws surrounding them are still both varied and vague. One of the most common questions we’re asking is ‘is digital signing legal in my country’ so to help answer that question, we’ve summarised the digital signing laws for 4 key countries below. Can’t find your country, or after more information? The full laws guide is here.
In this blog, we refer to two types of signatures; digital signatures and electronic signatures. Digital signatures are a more robust form of signing which needs to authenticate the signer and have an audit trail, IP address and other features attached to a document. Electronic signatures only need a symbol to identify the signer, these contracts are created based on the signer’s intent to enter but do not need authentication or an audit trail. We went through the differences in this blog.
New Zealand & Australia
Both New Zealand and Australia follow the same minimal approach to digital signing, called an open legal model. This means there’s more freedom in what is legally accepted as a digital signature. This model also lets nearly all documents be signed with a simple electronic signature. As electronic signatures don’t authenticate the signee, it’s always useful to gain consent before using signing and be able to reasonably identify them. This shows the signer knows they entered a contract by symbolising their agreement and you’re able to identify them as the signer in court.
This approach lets businesses customise which type of signature they want to use depending on what type of contract or document is being sent out. By giving businesses this freedom, they can improve business efficiencies and make processes simpler. SuiteFiles’ digital signatures go above and beyond what is legally required in most instances.
All EU member states follow the same digital signing laws, a tiered approach. Electronic signatures are given the same jurisdiction as written signatures, but digital signatures are only considered legal and enforceable. This model gives businesses less freedom than the open model. If the signee denies entering the contract and there’s limited evidence, it may not hold up in court so more care needs to be taken when deciding which type of signature should be used.
In the UK it’s advised to use a software that provides authentication and an audit trail of each signed document. This lets specific information be used in legal proceedings such as the signature itself, seals, time stamps, registered delivery services and certificates for website authentication. This type of data is stored by a SuiteFiles’ digital signature.
Like New Zealand and Australia, the USA uses an open digital signature legal model. This gives businesses more freedom in choosing which signature should be used for certain documents and contracts. It gives both digital and electronic signatures the same jurisdiction as handwritten signatures.
It’s always advised to gain consent from each party before using any form of e-signature, and to use a software that can authenticate the signer to ensure enforceability of the contract!
SuiteFiles digital signing
SuiteFiles digital signing uses an approach that complies with tiered and open digital signature legal models. Once you’ve sent the document, an email will be sent to the signer’s email address asking them to sign the document, and validating their identity via access to the email address. They can then view the document, add their signature, and complete the document, creating the digital signature timestamp.
We use this process to create a user-friendly way to both authenticate the signer and make signing digital documents simple. If you’re interested in reading more about our digital signing, head to our features page here or send us a message here.
This information is intended as a guide only. SuiteFiles cannot provide legal advice, nor is this blog intended as legal advice. You should consult an attorney regarding specific questions.