Understanding Digital Signatures

In the digital age, the use of electronic signatures (e-signatures) has become increasingly prevalent, offering a convenient and efficient alternative to traditional paper-based signing processes. In the United Kingdom, the legality of digital signatures, including those used by platforms like DocuSign, is well-established, providing a solid legal foundation for their use in a wide range of documents and transactions.

The legal framework for e-signatures in the UK is primarily provided by the Electronic Communications Act 2000 and further reinforced by the EU eIDAS Regulation (EU) No 910/2014, which continues to apply in the UK post-Brexit under the Electronic Identification and Trust Services for Electronic Transactions Regulations 2016. These laws ensure that digital signatures are recognised and can be legally binding, provided they meet certain criteria.

According to these regulations, an electronic signature is defined as "data in electronic form which is attached to or logically associated with other data in electronic form and which is used by the signatory to sign." This broad definition encompasses a variety of e-signature types, from simple electronic signatures (such as a scanned image of a handwritten signature) to more secure forms, such as advanced electronic signatures (AdES) and qualified electronic signatures (QES), which provide higher levels of security and are linked uniquely to the signatory.

For a digital signature to be considered legally binding in the UK, it must:

  • Be uniquely linked to the signatory.

  • Allow the identification of the signatory.

  • Be created using means that the signatory can maintain under their sole control.

  • Be linked to the document in such a manner that any subsequent change in the data is detectable.

DocuSign and similar platforms provide solutions that comply with these requirements, ensuring that documents signed using their services are legally binding. Moreover, the courts in the UK have demonstrated a willingness to recognize and enforce e-signed documents, provided they meet the necessary legal standards.

In conclusion, digital signatures used by DocuSign and other e-signature platforms are legal and binding in the UK, supported by robust legislation. This legal recognition facilitates the widespread adoption of digital signatures across various sectors, streamlining processes, and enhancing efficiency in the digital landscape.