Electronic signatures – What is the law and is it admissible?

We occasionally have a dispute arise between two parties and one seeks legal advice after they claim that they signed an agreement using DocuSign or a similar provider and wish to argue that this is not legally valid and cannot be enforced. We even have some clients consider that this method of signature is not admissible in court.

In the court of appeal case of Golden Ocean Group v Salgaocar Mining Industries, it was held that a contract cannot be considered by a party as unenforceable just because it was using an electronic signature. It is important to note that the audit trail of a signature may be important to disclose to ensure the legitimacy of the signature.

Note that just because an electronic signature can be now admissible in court and is recognised as a legal method of signing a document, there are still some documents which we have to insist on being handwritten signatures such as Wills and some deeds.

The above is important to note that when you are agreeing to something and are being asked to sign electronically, this can then be used to enforce the agreement and be used against you if you breach the terms of the agreement.

We occasionally are instructed to deal with matters where the client claims that someone has fraudulently signed against their name on a document which they were not aware. In those circumstances, if a dispute then arose from the fraudulent signing of an agreement then the other party would be expected to show all other correspondence, documents, delivery notes if goods are involved, and of course the audit trail from the signature to possibly identify the source.

An electronic signature can be used in court and you may be liable. If you are in doubt over what you are signing or to what you are agreeing please get in touch. You may have already signed a document electronically and wish to know you rights or are in breach of an agreement and proceedings have commenced and you need legal advice. It may be that you are not fully at fault or in breach and may be able to negotiate. Do not ignore any correspondence or demands and contact our office at once.

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