Electronic signatures play an important role in international business and commerce. Worldwide, companies of all sizes rely on e-signature technology to get major deals done on a daily basis. If national governing bodies could not guarantee the legality and validity of electronic contracts and online transactions, then e-commerce would most likely come to a grinding halt. This is a major reason why lawmakers in so many countries have made it a priority to enact national e-signature legislation.
Across the globe, more than 60 countries have established their own laws and standards regarding electronic signatures and digital transactions. However, this growth is only beginning. The number of countries that have some form of legislation regarding e-signatures is continuing to grow every year.
The following countries have adopted some form of e-signature legislation:
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- Dominican Republic
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- Republika Srpska
- South Africa
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
- United States
Of the many countries that have enacted e-signature legislation, a few have adopted laws, acts, and policies that stand out for their thoroughness and inclusivity. These include:
Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (United States)
Enacted in June of 2000, the E-Sign Act was the United States’ first major federal law that ensures the legality of contracts signed with e-signatures. The E-Sign Act stipulates that signatures on documents and contracts should not be denied legal effect or ruled unenforceable simply because of their digital nature.
Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (United States)
The UETA was proposed by the National Conference of Commissioners of Uniform State Laws with the goal of bringing consistency to various state laws on the subject of e-signatures and online document archiving. The UETA – which has been adopted by 47 states thus far – paved the way for electronic checks and signatures. It is frequently held up as an example of a law that protects the legal enforceability of electronic agreements.
Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (Canada)
Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, better known as PIPEDA, regulates how consumer data should be treated with regard to privacy and security. The law is intended to promote e-commerce by increasing the consumers’ trust in dealing with businesses in Canada’s private sector.
Electronic Transactions Act 1999 (Australia)
Australia’s Electronic Transactions Act provides a regulatory framework that facilitates the use of electronic transactions and ensures that no transaction will be ruled invalid simply because it was completed electronically. This act was most recently amended in 2011 to provide even more protections to Australian consumers and businesses.
European Directive 199/93/EC (European Union)
The EU Directive was the first wide-scale e-signature legislation to take effect in the European Union. All member states were required to be in compliance by July of 2001. The Directive is similar to the U.S. E-Sign Act, in that it provides protections for businesses and consumers that agree to conduct business online using e-signatures and digital documents.
Electronic Communications Act 2000 (United Kingdom)
Based on the framework provided by the EU Directive, the United Kingdom’s Electronic Communications Act provides guarantees as to the legal acceptability of e-signatures with regard to encryption services, electronic communications, and data storage for people living in England, Scotland, and Wales.
Electronic Signatures Regulation 2002 (United Kingdom)
The Electronic Signatures Regulation 2002 went hand in hand with the 2000 Act in implementing the rules already put in place by the European Union in its 1999 Directive. Based on the 2002 regulations, an e-signature in the United Kingdom is any form of electronic data that is attached to or associated with another piece of electronic data. These regulations are considered broad in scope.
Information Technology Act 2000 (India)
India’s Information Technology Act, also known as the IT Act, was designed to address the growing concerns of businesses conducting transactions online within India. The Act itself provides legal recognition for electronic documents and digital signatures, although much of the initial framework was disassembled in an amendment to the Act, which was passed by India’s parliament in 2008.
Law Concerning Electronic Signatures and Certification Services (Japan)
The bulk of Japan’s e-signature regulations derive from the Law Concerning Electronic Signatures and Certification Services. The law promotes the use of electronic records and states that e-signatures are important to the nation’s economy and to the quality of life for its citizens.
Electronic Signature Law of the People’s Republic of China (China)
Adopted in 2004, the Electronic Signature Law of the People’s Republic of China aimed to standardize the way that e-signatures were created in China and protect the interests of people who participate in transactions online. By standardizing and regulating how electronic data should be handled, the Electronic Signature Law in effect provides all the framework necessary to ensure that e-signatures remain legally binding in China.
Electronic Transactions Act (New Zealand)
When it went into full effect in 2003, New Zealand’s Electronic Transactions Act recognized the important role that e-commerce and e-signatures will play in the country’s future economy. To foster that, the Act provides protections to consumers and businesses and allows for electronic communication between businesses and the government.
UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Signatures (United Nations)
Many countries that have more recently adopted e-signature legislation have done so under the guidance of the U.N.’s UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Signatures (MLES). Adopted in 2001, the MLES establishes a reliable set of technical criteria that legislators can use when creating their own e-signature laws. The MLES is technology neutral and non-discriminatory, and it puts more emphasis on the certificates that are used in the creation of an e-signature than the specific country or location where the signature was made.
While click-to-agree electronic signatures have become commonplace in today’s world of internet shopping and iTunes agreements, the popularity of electronic signature software shows the value of signing documents and contracts with a hand-drawn, personal electronic signature. A unique handwritten signature has long been a symbol for verifying one’s identity: assuming only the identified party would [...]
Microsoft Word is the world’s most used word processing program. Every day, millions of users use MS Word to draft important documents. The growth of online business has made it increasingly acceptable to send word documents by email, and an overview of electronic signatures shows that professionals are taking advantage of electronic transactions to increase [...]
How can you apply an electronic signature to a PDF document? First, it’s helpful to understand the strengths and vulnerabilities of this well-known file format. Then, you can try new online software that enables you to place legally-binding e-signatures on PDF documents. The PDF Format Necessity is the mother of invention. This is true of [...]
Electronic signature software promises a host of benefits for your business: contracts signed faster, reduced paper and postage costs, stronger legal defensibility, and satisfied customers. Whether you represent a small proprietorship or a large enterprise, it is important to select the e-signature solution with tools and features that fit the way you do business. Unlike [...]
For most people who enter into contracts on a daily basis, the terms “electronic signature” and “digital signature” mean roughly the same thing. From a legal perspective, however, an electronic signature and a digital signature are two very different forms of consent. Whether a signature is electronic, digital, or handwritten on paper, the underlying concept [...]
Canadian lawmakers have taken a non-restrictive approach to regulating electronic contracts and records. Although officials in the country have created guidelines and regulations as a way to determine the legality of online records and e-signatures, these guidelines are “technology neutral” and minimal in scope. The legal requirements for e-signatures in Canada are very similar to [...]
Electronic transactions have virtually eliminated many of the barriers that once hampered international business and trade, which is one of the reasons why the European Union was so motivated to create its own set of guidelines and standards regarding the legality of electronic signatures and records. In order for an e-signature to be valid within [...]
Electronic signatures have become a ubiquitous – and yet oftentimes unexamined – part of daily life for most people today. Without being able to accept electronically signed documents, businesses would not be able to function at the speed and efficiency to which consumers have become accustomed. Legislation like the E-Sign Act and The Uniform Electronic [...]
Documents that are signed electronically have all the same legal protections as those that are signed with a ballpoint pen. Despite this, the leading concerns among the majority of businesses interested in obtaining e-signatures on contracts and other important paperwork is whether these electronically executed documents will be both legally valid and admissible in court. [...]