Covid-19 has forced many changes in our work practices. The legal industry is no different. Remote working and virtual hearings are just two examples of these changes. Though with reduced physical interactions and meetings the issue of electronic signatures has become a topic for discussion and analysis.
Electronic signatures are virtual representations of a wet-signature, one your signer would create with a pen and paper. Similar to the wet-signature, eSignatures are used to identify signers and signify that they agree to the terms outlined above the signature line.
eSignatures are extremely versatile. They enable the recipient to conveniently sign documents by typing their name out or simply scrawling it with a finger or stylus directly through a mobile app on their iOs or Android smartphone to complete the signature image.
The valid execution of documents in Ireland depends on several factors including the type of execution required, any legislative requirements, and the governing documentation of the company and the powers of the individuals concerned.
It’s worth noting that the terms eSignature and digital signature are often used interchangeably despite their notable differences. Digital signatures, also called cryptographic signatures, are a type of electronic signature that is coded and encrypted in order to prevent the impersonation of a signee, tampering, and improve the overall security overall of every signed document. Most of the time, a digital signature is a slightly more accurate term when referring to electronically signing documents. However, the term eSignature is much more recognisable and frequently used.
The law governing e-signatures in Ireland is contained in the Electronic Commerce Act 2000 (ECA) and EU Regulation 910/2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market (eIDAS).
Despite the widespread adoption of electronic signatures, there are still a few occasions in which tactile documents and handwritten signatures must be used, for example:
- In property transactions, where the registration authority requires original signature on Deeds relating to property
- In the execution of statutory declarations and sworn affidavits
- Where the counterparty to the document does not consent to execution of it by e- signature
- In certain transactions where the contractual arrangements prohibit it
- Enduring powers of attorney
- Documents required to be signed by the rules of the Courts or tribunals
There are many reasons to why one could start using eSignatures, but the most obvious is convenience. If you don’t have the time to print, sign, and scan or mail documents or physical distancing creates a problem it is an attractive alternative. Although one should be clear on where and when an e signature is legally binding. Your solicitor can accurately guide you in this regard.
NB – This is a guide for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have an issue requiring legal advice, please contact any of the team at Nolan Farrell & Goff, whose numbers can be found on our website, www.nfg.ie