On February 28, 2018 the Knesset amended the Electronic Signature Law, 2001 (the “Law”). This is the first major amendment of the Law since it was enacted in 2001, and the technological and practical uses of electronic signatures have developed and expanded since then. This amendment is intended to align the legal framework with commercial realities and to remove certain legal obstructions to the use of electronic signatures for various purposes.
In the past, the Law only recognized the admissibility of two types of electronic signatures, both of which are required to comply with fairly stringent technological and bureaucratic standards: Secure Electronic Signatures and Certified Electronic Signatures. The amended Law expressly states that a signature will not be deemed inadmissible solely because it is an electronic signature – in other words, simple electronic signatures, such as copied and pasted PDF signatures or click-through consents, are now prima facie acceptable for evidentiary purposes (for the sake of clarity, they have always been sufficient for contractual purposes).
Prior to this amendment, any signature that was required by law had to be either a manual signature or a Certified Electronic Signature. The amended Law now allows the use of simple or Secure Electronic Signatures in almost all cases where a document is required to be signed, provided the type of signature used is adequate to fulfill, to a sufficient degree of certainty, the purposes of such requirement. This is a somewhat vague standard, which we assume will need to be fleshed out by the courts. The only remaining cases in which either a Certified Electronic Signature, or a manual signature, is still absolutely required, are all inheritance-related.
Section 6 of the Law states that from an evidentiary perspective, a printout or any other output of an electronic message signed with a Secure Electronic Signature is granted the status of an original rather than that of a copy for the purpose of any legal proceedings (with certain exceptions). Under the amended Law, this section will be cancelled in February 2020; the rationale being that a printout on its own does not actually suffice to prove that the document was properly signed, unless attached to the electronic message itself. If the message itself is being submitted in evidence, there is no need for the printout, and accordingly no need for the special status granted in Section 6.
The main practical significance of this amendment is that many types of documents, which in the past required either manual signatures or Certified Electronic Signatures, such as documents submitted to the National Insurance Institute or the Israel Tax Authority, or documents or notices filed with the Registrar of Companies, can now, at least in theory, be signed by a simple electronic signature – all subject to the standard of sufficient certainty noted above. The response of the various regulatory authorities is yet to be seen, as is that of such entities as insurance companies.