Are Electronic Signatures Legally Binding in the UK?

February 1, 2021

Over the past two decades, electronic signatures have grown in popularity with millions of people everywhere signing them each year. Electronic signatures provide a fast and secure signing process for any business, organization, department, or project that comes with organized, built-in convenience. The main purpose is to facilitate an individual’s intent to agree to something and securely document it in a way that is easily accessible when needed.

One of the most popular questions surrounding electronic signatures is whether they are considered a legally binding contract. In most cases, an electronic signature can create a legal and binding contract that is enforceable and is used widely in the corporate world as well as any type of small business or large organization. In many cases, it is considered more secure and protected than paper contracts. 

It’s important to know how to ensure legality when signing agreements and other formal or informal documents. In this post, we’ll specifically review what makes an electronic signature legally binding in the UK to give you confidence in moving forward with using electronic signatures.

Are Electronic Signatures Legally Binding in the UK?

Electronic signatures have the same legal status as a handwritten signature in the UK. This has provided a way to simplify and expedite the way that businesses, organizations, and individuals track, manage, and approve signatures. The Electronic Communications Act 2000 regulates, recognizes, and enforces the legality of electronic signatures in the UK. The UK also adheres to the European Union’s eIDAs regulations.  

Are Legal Documents Able to Be Signed Electronically in the UK? 

In short, yes, legal documents are broadly enforceable for both business and personal transactions in the UK. There are many types of legally binding documents that can be signed electronically, including, but not limited to:

  • Contracts
  • Quotes
  • Proposals
  • Invoices
  • Medical releases
  • Settlements
  • Real estate property transactions
  • Non-disclosure agreements

There are some exceptions and additional legal requirements that may be required to enforce the types of electronic signatures above, particularly legal documents. When preparing to sign or have someone else sign an electronic signature, you should always reference the laws in your area to ensure that it will be legally binding. There are some particular circumstances where electronic signatures aren’t covered by the Electronic Communications Act. A few of these include:

  • Wills 
  • Bills of exchange
  • Promissory notes 
  • Chattel mortgages
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Statutory Assignments
  • Real estate property documents 
  • Deeds that are witnessed or used in the content of UK real estate 

You should always seek legal advice as to where an electronic signature is allowed in your specific situation and determine if there are any specific requirements to make it legally binding. 

3 Types of e-Signatures Accepted in the UK

There are several types of e-signatures that are acceptable under the Electronic Communications Act and eIDAs.

1. Electronic Signatures (ES)

These are considered simple e-signatures and can be used for a wide range of reasons including scanned manuscript signatures and website UI elements (including selected tick boxes and buttons that include the “I agree” text next to them). 

2. Advanced Electronic Signatures (AES) 

These are essential for business deals and parties to a contract that requires trust and the utmost certainty that the signing process is tamper-proof. AES is based on unique identification and authentication of the signatory and allows for verification. 

3. Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES)

Qualified e-signatures offer long-term security and are based on a qualified certificate, uniquely identifying the signer. They are not commonly used in English case law, however are used when foreign jurisdiction is involved or there is a necessity to notarize the document. 

Electronic Signatures vs. Digital Signatures: What Is the Difference? 

In the UK, an electronic signature is the most common way to request an authorized signature or to have an online contract signed. However, a digital signature is used when additional verification is required. 

Electronic Signature: Indicates an acceptance of an agreement or record through an electronic process and is considered the most common type of electronic signature in the UK. 

Digital Signature: This type of electronic signature using a digital certification from a trust service provider (TSP) is to authenticate a signer’s identity. It’s only issued when the identity of the signer is validated and they use a public key infrastructure (PKI) to associate a specific signer with a document confirming their identity. In many cases, the extra steps required for a digital signature are not required for most transactions. 

Are WaiverFile Electronic Signatures Legally Binding In the UK? 

WaiverFile ensures security and legality in every file. We make it easy to convert a file into a legally binding, signable document. You’ll be able to share it securely from any device within seconds. Our electronic signatures comply with all Electronic Communication Act 2000 regulations. WaiverFile’s electronic e-signature solution complies with the definition of an electronic signature under this act. 

Every document we provide automatically generates and stores a complete, time-stamped history of when the document is viewed, sent elsewhere, signed, printed or when there is a refusal to sign. This allows you to provide proof that the signatures are considered legally binding. 

Disclaimer: The content on this site is not legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established. To ensure your online consent form is legally binding based on your location, industry, and specific circumstances, consult a legal professional in your area.

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