Electronic signatures, or digital signatures, are an easy way to organise your business digitally. By giving you the power to sign documents on screen, you avoid the hassle of printing, signing and scanning. It also helps take your office towards being paperless, saving your business money on ink and paper. However, it is natural to worry that perhaps they are less safe than the tried and trusted, ancient art of signing by hand.
In this article, I want to take a look at the safety of electronic signatures and whether or not they can function as a complete replacement for the paper and pen signature.
The Legal Status Of Electronic Signatures
The legal status of an electronic signature is the logical place to begin. After all, what use a replacement for a signature if it does not hold up in a court of law. If you are entering into any kind of legally binding contract, you want to be sure that your signature and the signature of the other party are in fact legally binding.
27 countries have passed laws that make digital signatures count as official and legally binding. This includes the US, Canada, China, the EU and Australia. However, the vast majority of countries are yet to pass specific laws concerning the legality of digital signatures. This does not mean that digital signatures are not legally binding, it just means that there is no specific legislation that says they are applicable in a court of law. As such, if you are operating in a country without specific laws, it is worth consulting with a lawyer before implementing digital signatures within your business.
Can Digital Signatures Be Forged?
Another worry with digital signatures might be that there could be some kind of forgery, or that someone could add your signature to a document without your knowledge.
The fact is that if you use an official, well designed piece of software or an online service (for a free service click here) for your electronic signature, forgery is practically impossible. These services use strong digital encryption to make sure that your signature is secure, and that only you can add it to documents.
In many ways, digital signatures are actually much harder to forge than handwritten ones, as there is always the change, however remote, that someone could copy your signature by hand.
In this article, I have covered two of the major worries you may have about digital or electronic signatures – their legal status and whether they can be forged. As we have seen here, on both accounts electronic signatures are safe and secure. There are some issues about their legal status in some countries, so if you are operating in a place without specific laws about digital signatures, it is probably worth seeking legal advice before implementing them on legally binding contracts.
Also, over time we can expect electronic signatures to become more and more commonplace, as they become increasingly accepted. This is great news for businesses, as it will increase efficiency and save money on printing costs.