Frequently Asked Questions
Is an electronic signature legal?
Yes, both federal and state law gives electronic signatures the same legal status as handwritten signatures.
The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) (Pub.L. 106-229, 14 Stat. 464, enacted June 30, 2000, 15 U.S.C. ch.96) is a United States federal law passed by the U.S. Congress to facilitate the use of electronic records and signatures in interstate and foreign commerce by ensuring the validity and legal effect of contracts entered into electronically. Since then, online electronic signatures on commercial transactions and most other agreements have a legal status equivalent to a written signature.
Although every state has at least one law pertaining to electronic signatures, it is the federal law that lays out the guidelines for interstate commerce. The general intent of the ESIGN Act is spelled out in the very first section (101.a), that a contract or signature “may not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely because it is in electronic form”. This simple statement provides that electronic signatures and records are just as good as their paper equivalents, and therefore subject to the same legal scrutiny of authenticity that applies to paper documents.
US state law modeled on the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) also provides a legal framework for electronic transactions. It gives e-signatures and records the same validity and enforceability as manual signatures and paper-based transactions. This UETA was adopted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) in 1999. To date, 45 states have passed the Uniform Electronic Transaction Act.
What are the legal requirements of electronic signatures?
(a) The signature must be unique to the person using it.
Electronic signatures meet this requirement by prompting individuals to perform an action that is unique to them, such as entering a private password each time that they electronically sign a document. Requiring the individual to enter information, such as a password, that is only known by him or her increases the reliability that the individual consented to certain policy provisions. This is accomplished in EchoSign via your e-mail address. Your e-mail address is unique, but it is not only known to you. However, your password to receive your e-mail is unique and known only to you. Requiring you to acknowledge your signature through an e-mail that only you can access satisfies this requirement.
(b) The signature must be verifiable.
Electronic signatures meet this requirement by associating a person's private password in a secure manner to the information they provided for identification. The electronic signature is then verifiable as coming from the person who electronically signed the document. This is again accomplished via your e-mail account and the process to sign the document.
(c) The signature must be under the sole control of the person using it.
Electronic signatures meet this requirement in two ways. First, before a person may electronically sign a document, he or she must enter something that is known only by that individual, such as a private password. Second, the individual also has control over the computer file which contains the application, including the electronic signatures. Again, your electronic signature via EchoSign satisfies this requirement because the document is not signed until you acknowledge your intent via an e-mail you receive that only you have access to receive.
(d) The electronic signature process must guarantee that the document signed cannot be altered after it has been electronically signed.
Once the document is electronically signed, it is secured by an electronic tamper-seal. This electronic tamper-seal will detect any changes to the document, and if any changes occur after the document was electronically signed, the electronic tamper-seal will invalidate the electronic signature. The electronic tamper-seal is completely secure and cannot be modified or removed without invalidating the electronic signature and the document. This process ensures that once the document is electronically signed, the contents of that document will remain unaltered. EchoSign accomplishes this by locking the document once both parties have signed. No further changes to the document can be made.
(e) The electronic signature must capture and preserve the signer's intent, consent, understanding, or responsibility related to a document that is being signed.
The entire process to electronically sign the document accomplished this requirement. In order to sign the document, you must acknowledge your intent to sign by entering your name and initials. You further consent to the the understanding of your intent when you acknowledge your intent to sign the document by completing the signature process once you receive the confirmation e-mail.
This information is
provided "as is" and should not be considered a legal opinion.