E-Signatures and Legality
By Jason Province
In our modern times it isn’t abnormal to come across electronics and their ever-growing use in our daily lives. As electronics have been incorporated over the years so has the need for electronic authorization. Electronic authorization is used with purchases online, signing a electronic signature pad when receiving packages, signing legal documents online, or even just stating acknowledgment of a read article or set of instructions. Laws have been set in place over the years to legalize the use of such signatures and their use across the United States. The laws we will be looking at that pertain to electronic signatures are UETA and E-SIGN.
UETA or The Uniform Electronic Transaction Act, was completed in 1999 by the Uniform Law Commissioners of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Law. UETA made it possible for electronic signatures to have an equal legal status as those that involve paper. UETA allows for states to adopt the Act as a whole or just parts of the Act. So far almost every state has adopted UETA either as a whole or in part.
Under UETA, an electronic signature is defined as: “an electric sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with a record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.” The definition being as broad as it is encompasses a large spectrum of electronic signature types. These types can include the signer’s typewritten name, a click to accept or reject approach, a character signing with symbols, a video clip, sound clip, a digital certificate, or even a electronic capturing of a signature used by most signature pads.
The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, also known as E-SIGN, was passed into law by the U.S. Congress in June 2000. E-SIGN was designed to co-exist with UETA and it’s provisions. Just like UETA, E-SIGN holds electronic signatures in equal legal status with those on paper. E-SIGN provides a general rule of validity for electronic signatures and records for transactions in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce. The E-SIGN Act allows for the use of electronic records to satisfy any statue, rule requiring that such information be in writing, regulation, as long as the consumer has confirmed consent. The E-SIGN Act grandfathers already existing laws like UETA, however, agreements after October 1, 2000, are subject to the requirements of the E-SIGN Act.
So you may be thinking, what does all this mean for consumers who more times than not are not aware of such laws and regulations being passed on a regular basis? In short, as a U.S. citizen we can consent or acknowledge any legal contract or transaction with any form of electronic approval, whether that approval be capturing your actual signature like with electronic signing pads, a video clip, a sound clip, or click method with accept or reject for any and all approved forms of records and transactions within the United States.