What are the practical uses of Electronic Signatures & How effective are they?
Digital signatures are emerging as an invaluable tool to rely on for contracts and documents that need to be signed. They are reinventing the virtual working environment and enabling organizations to function as per the ‘business as usual’ routines, especially in the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Over the last few months, there has been a rapid increase in the number of organizations adopting digital signatures to get documents signed and eliminate manual signing workflows. Digital signatures are not only simplifying and speeding up signature workflows but are also fairly addressing the need to work remotely. Moreover, digital signature solutions are on an upward chart in usage and adoption for businesses, facilitating faster and more organized authentication of business documents.
The conventional way to sign documents with a pen and paper has become impractical, expensive, and all the more challenging, especially after the pandemic. Moreover, with 60% of the UK population working remotely, access to printers and scanners has become a challenge, making digital signature technology a necessity.
Digital Signature Laws in the UK!
In simple terms, a digital signature works on the authentication of the communicator's identity or the authority signing the document. It ensures the authenticity and originality of the document using PKI cryptography and remains unchanged throughout the communication or documentation, eliminating chances of alteration or tampering. Furthermore, the sender cannot deny the content sent via the signed document.
Electronic signatures in the UK are regulated by the UK eIDAS Regulations. The eIDAS Regulation is Regulation (EU) 910/2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market. After the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, the eIDAS Regulation was adopted into UK law and amended by The Electronic Identification and Trust Services for Electronic Transactions (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019). In addition, the existing UK trust services legislation, The Electronic Identification and Trust Services for Electronic Transactions Regulation 2016 (2016 No.696) was also amended. Together, these regulations are referred to as the UK eIDAS Regulations.
There are three types of signatures recognized by eIDAS:
Simple Electronic Signatures, Advanced Electronic Signatures, and Qualified Electronic Signatures. Simple Electronic Signatures are the most basic type of electronic signatures and require the least amount of proof. Advanced Electronic Signatures (AES) have to meet more stringent identity verification criteria and thus have a higher level of security. Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES) provide the highest level of security and legal guarantees. While most documents can be digitally signed in the UK, deeds, wills, and other documents requiring witness attestations are signed via ‘ink’ signatures (e.g., land registry documents, revenue and customs documents, family law documents, and corporate accounts).
Practical uses of Electronic Signatures in various sectors
Businesses in every industry have adopted Digital Signatures to save costs, reduce time and improve workflow processes. Using Digital Signatures is an economical and secure alternative to traditional ink signatures. Here are some industries that can benefit from Electronic Signature Solutions.
The laws concerning life sciences, medical, or healthcare sector are strict and rigid, as they should be. The HIPAA electronic signature privacy law is the law that secures and protects the personal information of a patient. Hence, the laws concerning electronic document storage and heightened privacy with acceptable forms of e-signatures are an ever-present concern. Thus, using digital signatures that conform to federal laws boosts document security, improves compliance, and is a much more sustainable process. Managing contracts for patients, vendors, physicians, and employees efficiently is critical for successful healthcare organizations. Here are a few essential healthcare documents that can be signed electronically:
- Admission forms
- Payment of medical bills
- Patient documentation
- Consent forms
Finance and insurance-related industries deal with sensitive information and often require signatures to process almost every transaction. Therefore, keeping the process streamlined and secured is essential to avoid bottlenecks. Besides being quick, secure, and efficient compared to faxing or mailing, digital signatures also offer date, time, and audit log features that track precise details about the signing process. There are some documents where e-signatures can transform the document signing approach:
- Loan applications
- Account opening/closing
- Credit insurance
The legal sector is another excellent example of an industry loaded with paperwork and signature requirements. The legal industry has a lot to gain through digital signatures that can help businesses save all costs associated with traditional pen and paper signatures. A centralized system for legal documents allows users to view all important and sensitive signed documentation in one location without having to waste time searching for documents. In addition, a digital signature solution uses a two-factor user authentication feature which strengthens security measures and quickly notifies all relevant parties when signatures are required. Here are some documents where e-signatures enable remote signing:
- Insurance information
- Shareholder consents
IT and Cyber security
Companies specializing in digital security and innovation can opt for electronic signatures to deliver the information security and efficiency expected from them. Furthermore, electronic signatures save money and resources spent on redundant processes such as faxing, mailing, or printing documents for signatures. Businesses can use digital signatures for signing the following documents:
- Data Encryption
- API documentation
- Sales contract management
- Hardware and software requests
Construction and Engineering
Most projects in the construction and engineering industries need to be completed under tight deadlines. As a result, even slight delays can prove to be an expensive affair. To add to this, sending contracts with multiple pages, coordinating with engineers, contractors, and construction teams can take hours. Opting for electronic signature solutions can drastically cut the time needed to complete these steps. Moreover, storing documents such as subcontractor agreements, quotes, purchase orders, and work contracts in a centralized portal makes it easier for construction project managers to track who has signed a particular contract. These are some of the documents that can be signed via electronic signatures:
- Rental management
- Agency agreement
- Commercial lease
Key considerations to keep in mind while procuring e-signatures
Electronic signatures cover the full range of technology automation that enables businesses to sign documents digitally, including document management, audit trails, identity verification, and electronic notarization. They are reliable, safe, and economical alternatives to conventional contract signatures. However, there are specific considerations to keep in mind while obtaining e-signatures for a particular document:
- The method of collecting e-signature must be acceptable and legal in that particular state/country.
- If obtaining consent via e-signatures, all the aspects of collecting the e-signatures should meet statutory security requirements.
- Advanced electronic signatures should be preferred over simple electronic signatures as this method is likely to be less susceptible to forgery.
By now, you may have learnt how electronic signatures work perfectly for any industry or sector and are efficient for agreements and contracts, etc. Moreover, they are effortless to implement where business records can be easily filed for future retrievals.
Technological advancements in recent years have made it possible for a larger audience to adopt and even favor electronic signature solutions. As a result, a wider use and implementation of electronic signatures is now a reality across many areas and sectors in the UK. DrySign, Exela’s proprietary digital signature solution is designed to meet all the electronic signatures regulations in the UK. As a result, your business can adopt e-signatures that are legal, admissible, and enforceable in the UK.
With a host of innovative features such as group sign, cloud storage, audit trails, time stamps, notifications and auto-reminders, DrySign proves to be a robust solution helping drive operational efficiency for your business.
DISCLAIMER: The information on this site is for general information purposes only and is not intended to serve as legal advice. Laws governing the subject matter may change quickly, and Exela cannot guarantee that all the information on this site is current or correct. Should you have specific legal questions about any of the information on this site, you should consult with a licensed attorney in your area.