UK government: primary legislation not needed to reinforce the legal validity of electronic signatures

March 5, 2020

The UK government has issued its response to the Law Commission report on Electronic Execution of Deeds.

The government says that it welcomes the Law Commission’s report, and the detailed consideration it has given to the topic.

It agrees with the report’s conclusion that formal primary legislation is not necessary to reinforce the legal validity of electronic signatures. The existing framework makes clear that businesses and individuals can feel confident in using e-signatures in commercial transactions.

The government endorses the Commission’s draft legislative provision in the report, as reflecting the Government’s view of the legal position on electronic signatures. Electronic signatures are permissible and can be used in confidence in commercial and consumer documents.

It also accepts the Law Commission’s recommendation that an Industry Working Group should be established, which the Government should convene. As the report demonstrates, despite the legal position, there are issues on the security and technology of electronic signatures that require further consideration from suitably experienced experts. The Industry Working Group will be asked to consider the question of video witnessing of electronic signatures.

The report highlights that technological advances have meant that the status of electronic signatures is also applicable in other fields of law, and the government notes that while this presents opportunities it also involves challenges. These include ensuring that reform does not have any adverse effect, particularly on vulnerable people.

The government also accepts the Law Commission’s recommendation that there should be a wider review of the law of deeds. It will ask the Law Commission to undertake this review, although the timing for the review will be subject to overall government and Law Commission priorities given the volume of law reform work which exists.