Electronic signatures are now widely used in all manner of transactions and, in fact, have just been approved by The Department of Health for doctors’ signatures on prescriptions.
So why is it still necessary when buying and selling property to provide manual wet signatures, rather than electronic signatures?
Electronic signatures are validly used instead of handwritten signatures every day, however, where certain documents need signing or witnessing, there is uncertainty about the legal status of electronic signatures, which is inhibiting use of new technology.
The Law Commission has looked into the matter and concluded that an electronic signature is capable of meeting a statutory requirement for a signature.
It has launched a project to look at how it could be made easier to execute legal documents electronically and is asking for views on, among other things, whether there should be a move away from traditional witnessing to electronic signatures even when a signatory and witness are logged onto the same programme from different locations.
There is no doubt that if electronic signatures were deemed valid for property transactions, the legalities of buying and selling property could be more streamlined and potentially the time it takes to complete transactions could.
Digitalisation in other sectors raises expectations among clients and I believe it is important that we do everything we can to ensure their experience of legal services is equally slick, modern and convenient.