The Law Commission has published a new report about the use and validity of electronic signatures on documents.

The report is the result of a law reform project started in 2018 to address uncertainty to the formalities around the electronic execution of documents. It was especially looking at documents and deeds where there is a statutory requirement that they must be “signed” and have requirements of witnessing and delivery.

The report does not apply to wills, which are the subject of another Law Commission project. Registered dispositions under the Land Registration Act 2002 are specifically excluded.

The conclusion of the report is that an electronic signature is capable in law of being used to execute a document (including a deed) provided that:

The report also considers other issues to using electronic signatures, such as security. It advises that three key questions should be considered for any document, whether signed electronically or in wet ink. Users of electronic signatures should satisfy themselves that their process for dealing with signatures will provide sufficient evidence of the answers to the questions, especially if there is any dispute about the transaction.

The report contains some more specific guidance about signatures provided by particular bodies such as Companies House, the Land Registry and the Intellectual Property Office.

The office of the public guardian has confirmed to the law commission that they currently will not accept electronic signatures for lasting powers of attorney (LPAs) and have no plans to change this, however the government is setting up a review to be undertaken by the Law Commission into using electronic signatures in legal deeds, including LPAs.

External link:

Law Commission documents