If 2020 has taught us nothing else, it’s that we can do virtually anything…virtually. From shifting our face to face business encounters to web-based conferences to educating our kids in a completely online environment, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a powerful driving force in progressing our online, virtual, and electronic business practices.
The push to move so much of what once took place in-person to a safer, virtual marketplace came fast and furious, leaving many of us to wonder if the “new” practices (online testing, virtual doctor’s appointments, etc.) were even effective. If they were effective, were they even legal?
What about electronic signatures? Are documents that you receive in your email and “sign” with the click of a button enforceable by law? If you’re questioning the validity of the computer-generated signatures on documents you send and receive, we can help. We’ll explain:
- what electronic signatures are
- if electronic signatures are legal
- the benefits of electronic signatures and how to create them
Once we’re done, you’ll be able to send documents to your clients for their e-signature with complete peace of mind. You’ll also feel confident electronically signing your own name to necessary documents.
What is an Electronic Signature?
You receive a contract via email for your review and signature; only, you aren’t meant to print it off and sign it in ink. Instead, there’s a box to click, which brings up what appears to be different stylistic options for “signing” your name. With the click of a button, your name appears on the line, leaving you wondering what just happened.
You’ve just signed a document with your e-signature. An e-signature as defined by the E-Sign Act is “an electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.”
Simply put, an electronic signature is a way of endorsing a document without the use of an individual providing their signature in ink.
There are multiple ways to obtain or provide an electronic signature, including digital signatures. Digital signatures are a type of electronic signature that uses a specific type of encrypted technology to further protect the integrity of electronic signatures. Some companies prefer this added layer of safety when requesting or offering electronic signatures.
The question still remains; are these electronic signatures legal?
Are Electronic Signatures legally binding?
Yes. Electronic signatures are legally binding not only in the United States but almost everywhere worldwide.
The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, better known as the E-Sign Act, was passed into law on June 30, 2000, making the use of electronic or “e-signatures” legally binding.
So yes, the contract you just signed is a legally binding, enforceable contract. But how?
The E-Sign Act provides specific requirements to ensure conformity in terms of obtaining electronic signatures, informing signers that they will be signing electronically, and retaining records.
Here’s a brief look at some of the conditions that must be met for an electronic signature to be legally binding.
1. Proper Consent. Prior to obtaining an electronic signature, a company requesting one must make the signer aware that they will be signing a document electronically and obtain their consent to do so.
The consent must be clear, explain specifically what document they are consenting to, and if their consent to e-sign will be implied for other documents and agreements.
The company must also explain to the signer the procedure for withdrawing their consent, should they choose to do so, and how they may obtain a paper copy of what they’re signing (along with any fee associated with the copy cost).
2. Hardware and Software Requirements. Before consenting to sign electronically, the signer must be provided with a copy of the specific hardware and software requirements so that they can ensure they’re capable of properly accessing the document that needs to be signed electronically.
If any changes to the hardware and/or software requirements are made, the signer must be made aware prior to the signing date.
3. Record Retention. Institutions that obtain consents and electronic signatures must keep records of the consents and electronically signed documents for a specific period of time governed by law.
Those are the most important aspects of creating an electronic signature that is legally binding.
There are numerous companies that specialize in obtaining electronic signatures, and switching to electronic signing can benefit your business. Here’s how.
Benefits of using Electronic Signatures
They’re electronic, and they’re legal, but are they useful? If you’re considering switching all or a portion of your in-person document signing to electronic, it will be helpful to know what benefits you can expect from using electronic signatures in lieu of in-person original signatures.
Here are some of the most important benefits of using electronic signatures.
1. Safety. It goes without saying we are operating in a new world climate that is marked by a concern for our own safety and the safety of those around us. Limiting our contact with others during this time is crucial in slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Obtaining electronic signatures allows everyone to stay safe and limits contact with those who might be more vulnerable to falling ill while still allowing them to make important decisions and continue business.
2. Speed. Obtaining an original signature takes time. You must either coordinate schedules with both parties or use a mail or shipping service to get original documents. Both methods take a day at the absolute earliest and normally will take much longer.
Obtaining an electronic signature can be done in a matter of minutes. From document creation and delivery to signing and return, there is very little turnaround time, meaning you can move forward from the agreement to other matters.
3. Convenience. Arranging a face to face meeting can take time and requires the parties to carve out time in their schedules to meet, time that could be better spent attending to other tasks.
Additionally, if you have an agreement that needs to travel abroad, electronic delivery is the perfect solution. When operating globally, the most efficient method of conducting business is in electronic format.
Using electronic signatures allows parties to review and sign documents on the fly, without interrupting their schedules or relocating anyone to get the job done.
4. Enhanced security. Can you trust an electronic signature? The short answer is yes. Encryption features, seals, and passwords are just a few of the many ways of keeping your documents safe and your signers safer.
5. Increased Efficiency. Time is money, and obtaining electronic signatures saves both and allows your employees to work more efficiently. When employees are empowered to get the signatures and approvals they need quickly, they can proceed with the next tasks more quickly.
Many electronically signed documents can also be part of electronic document creation, management, and storage flow, which can allow even more efficiency, effectiveness, and cost savings.
Using Revv to handle Electronic Signatures
If you’re looking for a business solution that can integrate some of the most time-consuming parts of your business into a more streamlined, digital experience, Revv is your go-to.
Revv is a platform that allows your team to access document templates, create documents, track activity, obtain approvals and signatures, and even request and receive payment, all in one safe and central place.
Additionally, you won’t have to worry about paying for additional licensing for extra users if your company grows, as each of our paid plans offer a generous number of users that can access the software, and we don’t charge on a per user basis. Our software is available at pocket-friendly pricing for your entire time, no matter your company size.
With Revv, you can:
- Turn documents into forms, make them accessible to others who need to collaborate on the document, or protect it from changes. You can also send forms for fill and eSign together
- Track document activity. See who opened the document, as well as whether it was accepted, rejected, approved, and when it was shared or sent
- Create and track invoices; request and accept payments.
Additionally, Revv allows you to integrate other online service providers so you can fully optimize your business and customize your specific news, and our electronic signatures are mobile friendly, making the process even quicker and easier.
While electronic signing might seem very 2020, it’s actually been a legally binding way to sign documents since 2000. With electronic signing growing in popularity and the global business environment becoming more and more digitally focused, making the move to electronic signatures is a solid option.
You can trust electronic signatures to be legally binding, enforceable, and safe. You can also expect to save time, money, and manpower by transferring more of your approval and signing needs to an electronic platform.
Using Revv to help you create, manage, track, and collect signatures on your documents is a cost-effective and time-saving way to engage all of your employees and users in one centralized location for document collaboration, creation, and completion.