Are Electronic Signatures as Valid as Paper?


Validity of Electronic Signatures

If you are considering collecting electronic signatures, it is important that you have an understanding of the validity of electronic signatures. We often hear the following questions from potential WaiverSign customers, so we’ve put together some answers for you.

Please Note: The information on this website is intended for information purposes only. The information and materials on this website, including the FAQs, are not intended to be, nor should they be interpreted as, legal advice or opinion.

Is an electronic signature enforceable by law?

Yes. An electronic signature, or “e-signature,” is as valid as a paper-and-ink signature, thanks to laws in the United States and many other countries. For example, 47 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have all adopted the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (“UETA”), a model legal framework for states to follow which makes electronic signatures as valid as traditional handwritten signatures and provides uniform guidelines for their use in commerce. The remaining three states, Illinois, New York and Washington, have their own laws making e-signatures valid. The Electronic Signatures in Global and International Commerce Act (known as the “E-Sign Act”) also provides assurance that electronic signatures will be given the same force as paper signatures. The E-Sign act also ensures that states cannot enforce laws that conflict with the goal of giving an electronic signature the respect (and validity) they deserve. Electronic signatures have been upheld in numerous court cases.

Many other countries have also enacted laws on electronic signatures. For instance, the European Union has a community framework for electronic signatures that various member states have adopted.

Are electronic signatures new?

No. Electronic signatures have been around for years. With the explosion of the Internet, businesses began searching for ways to obtain legally enforceable signatures online. The UETA and the E-Sign Act were adopted to provide a legal framework to ensure that e-signatures are just as valid as traditional paper-and-ink signatures. The UETA was adopted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in 1999, and Congress passed the E-Sign Act in 2000.

How can I obtain an electronic signature on an important agreement?

An electronic signature is basically any electronic indicator associated with a contract that is used by a person to show acceptance. There are many different types of electronic signatures, everything from clicking a box, to a name typed into an online form, to a faxed signature to an encrypted “digital signature.” The state and federal laws governing the validity of electronic signatures are technology neutral – no one type of electronic signature is favored over another. That means you are free to choose the electronic signature solution that works best for your company. The WaiverSign service is an easy-to-use, efficient way to obtain signed documents online. Companies that have relied exclusively on hard copy waivers can now leave the cumbersome paper system behind and adopt the WaiverSign service.

Why should I use an electronic signature over a paper signature?

Many businesses are increasingly moving away from paper to digital contracts, which makes sense given that these days, transactions routinely take place between companies and clients or suppliers who are located in different states or even countries. There are many reasons to choose an electronic signature solution over paper signatures.

First, the WaiverSign electronic signature service is less expensive than a paper system because it saves your company the cost of paper, printer-related items, storage space, filing cabinets, and time.

Second, an electronic signature service such as the WaiverSign service can provide a better audit trail for signatures than paper signatures you get through the mail or even on site. After all, when you send a waiver or other document out for signature, you can’t be sure who actually signs the document. The WaiverSign service records the signer’s IP address and a timestamp of when the waiver was signed and requests information such as name, address, date of birth, email address and driver’s license number (in the case of parent / guardian signatures). This information is validated if the format is correct as entered. All this information is maintained as part of the signature’s audit trail, so you will always be able to access this evidence of the signature’s validity.

The WaiverSign service also gives you a greater ability to track and access digital liability waivers efficiently from anywhere in your organization, without running to a file cabinet. Finally, an electronic signature service like WaiverSign reduces the burden on your personnel, including those in the field who would otherwise have to try to get your customers to sign paper waivers at the last minute.

What is the best way to store documents signed with electronic signatures?

There are many options to store documents signed with electronic signatures. You can take the old-school approach: print out a paper copy and file it. You can also store the document electronically, on a hard drive or server in your office or online with a digital storage service. Or you can do a combination of these for redundancy – whatever works best for your company. It is important to store the document in a format that can be easily accessed and viewed when you need it.

If you choose to use WaiverSign, your service includes secure online storage of your electronically signed documents, along with the signature audit trail. The WaiverSign service is easy to use and allows you find a signed digital waiver within seconds – a perfect complement to your storage choice.

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