Overview of electronic signature law and its legality in the United Kingdom (UK)
In the UK, legally valid eSignatures are enforceable in general business use and cannot be denied admission in court solely on the grounds of not being handwritten.
Post-Brexit (January 2021), the United Kingdom still adheres to the rules and restrictions set by the eIDAS Regulation.
The legal framework for eSignatures in the UK is derived from the EU legislature. Regulation (EU), N°910/2014 on electronic identification and trust services in the internal market (commonly known as the eIDAS Regulation) was adopted in the EU member states to replace its predecessor, eSignature Directive, on July 23, 2014.
The Electronic Identification and Trust Services for Electronic Transactions Regulations 2016 implement the eIDAS Regulation in the UK, setting specific provisions on the effect, supervision, and enforcement of the regulation.
The ECA 2000
Section 7 of the Electronic Communications Act 2000 (the ECA 2000) provides a statutory framework for the admissibility of electronic signatures in the UK. The act also incorporates the eIDAS Regulation into the UK eSignature law.
For an electronic signature to be legally binding in the UK, all parties involved in a transaction must mutually agree to use electronic signatures and adopt a single signing platform.
It is essential to have clear communication and consent from all parties, indicating their acceptance and understanding of using electronic signatures.
Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES)
In the UK, there is no statutory or case law authority confirming that simple electronic signatures (Advanced Electronic Signatures – AES) can be used to execute deeds.
However, qualified electronic signatures (QES) are given the same legal value as handwritten signatures and are widely accepted for executing deeds.
QES requires a higher level of security and authentication, ensuring the integrity and non-repudiation of the signer’s identity.
Under English common law and the eIDAS regulation, electronic signatures are considered court-admissible and enforceable in general business use.
This means that in case of a legal dispute or litigation, electronic signatures can be presented as evidence to prove the authenticity and intent of the signatories.
Read more on electronic signature laws in different countries.