E-sign Laws: United Kingdom

By Celestine Loh, Updated: 2023-03-10 (published on 2020-11-17)

Part 12: Signing in to the digital age

When doing business with different nations, it’s important to know the rules they play by. The E-sign laws in the UK are well-established. 

A leading economic power amongst the countries, doing business in the United Kingdom (UK) opens up a large economic base with many opportunities. 

However, the business landscape is changing and restructuring in light of the UK leaving the European Union officially. Already, many articles and research papers have been written in speculation of what the economy will progress towards. And, it is definitely safer for businesses to keep themselves informed of what’s happening. Therefore, as the landscape changes, it is advisable to learn about the business legislation that surrounds international business activities. 

Read on to learn more about the legal compliance for E-sign in the United Kingdom specifically. And watch out for more in this series on Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, China, New Zealand, Australia, UK, Cayman Islands, and BVI.

E-Sign in the United Kingdom

The Electronic Communications Act was introduced in 2000. It adopts a tiered legal framework.

The Rules

Section 7 Electronic signatures and related certificates.
(1)In any legal proceedings—
(a)an electronic signature incorporated into or logically associated with a particular electronic communication or particular electronic data, and
(b)the certification by any person of such a signature, shall each be admissible in evidence in relation to any question as to the authenticity of the communication or data or as to the integrity of the communication or data.
(2)For the purposes of this section an electronic signature is so much of anything in electronic form as—
(a)is incorporated into or otherwise logically associated with any electronic communication or electronic data; and
[F2(b)purports to be used by the individual creating it to sign.]


Applicability of an Electronic Signature 

(3) For the purposes of this section an electronic signature incorporated into or associated with a particular electronic communication or particular electronic data is certified by any person if that person (whether before or after the making of the communication) has made a statement confirming that—

  1. the signature,
  2. a means of producing, communicating or verifying the signature, or
  3. a procedure applied to the signature, is (either alone or in combination with other factors) a valid means of signing.

Use Cases for E-sign

Instances where electronic signatures are generally considered appropriate:

  • HR documents, such as new employee onboarding processes including employment contracts, and benefits paperwork 
  • commercial agreements between corporate entities, including non-disclosure agreements, invoices, purchase orders, sales agreements and service agreements
  • consumer agreements
  • certain securitization documents, such as a guarantee
  • real estate documents

Use Cases Requiring Physical Signature

There are some cases where a handwritten signature will be necessary. These include:

  • real property documents submitted for registration with Land Registry and Land Charges Registry, including deed of transfer, certain leases, grants or transfers of a charge
  • documents that are registrable or need to be filed with an authority. This includes documents required to be sent to HM Revenue and Customs, where stamp duty is payable
  • wills and lasting powers of attorney  

This article does not constitute legal advice.

The opinions expressed in the column above represent the author’s own.

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Tags: e-sign | electronic signature | legal | legal tech | zegal

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