The Law Commission has confirmed that electronic signatures can be used to execute documents, including where there is a statutory requirement for a signature. It says that an electronic signature is capable in law of being used to execute a document (including a deed), provided that the signatory intends to authenticate the document and that any relevant formalities, such as the signature being witnessed, are satisfied. The Commission’s view is based upon legislation and court decisions which relate to both non-electronic and electronic signatures.
The Law Commission has identified some practical considerations which can affect the decision to execute documents electronically, including concerns that electronic signatures are more susceptible to fraud, practical issues such as the reliability and security of e-signature technology and the cross-border nature of some transactions and whether deeds can be witnessed remotely via video witnessing. The Commission’s view is that the current law probably does not allow for “remote” witnessing such as by video link.
Its recommendations to address some of the practicalities of electronic execution and the rules for executing deeds include the creation of an industry working group to consider practical and technical issues around electronic signatures and provide best practice guidance, to look at solutions to the practical and technical obstacles to video witnessing and consideration, by the government, of legislative reform to allow for this, and a review of the law of deeds.