One of the most frequent questions I get asked at Quicklysign is whether e-signatures are legal.
The answer of course is YES.
But the follow up question always makes me think. "Will e-signatures eventually take the place of physically signed or “wet ink" signatures?" Lets have a look.
Firstly the passing of the Electronic Communication and Transaction Act (ECT Act) in 2002 was a major step forward in doing business electronically in South Africa. Much like the paper equivalent, an e-signature is a legal concept and provides user authentication for both data and user, with a capture of intent.
Despite this, physically signing a document has been part of our lives for so long, (remember practising your signature as a kid?) that for many people the idea of a purely digital online version may seem a bit foreign.
However with online shopping becoming more common place in our lives and changing the way we purchase goods and services, we have become a lot more comfortable with the idea of verifying ourselves online.
For example, anyone who uses Kalahari, Take-a-lot or my fellow 88mph alumni Cable Kiosk on a regular basis, will be more than aware that it's not just a matter of selecting the goods required, but providing an authentic means of purchasing these items. Traditional signing can't apply online, so we are required to provide verification of our identity through banking details or a password protected login account, verified through your email. This goes for many different activities online.
So by verifying yourself through these procedures mentioned above by entering your credentials. It follows that you are providing consent to that eventual transaction. Well the same can be said for e-signatures.
In the same way that a paper-based contract between two or more parties often needs a physical “wet ink” signature and a witness to be legally binding. An electronic signature needs to provide evidence of mutually agreed consent and authentication in order to be legally binding.
So with more people becoming comfortable with verifying themselves online, the law clearly in place and products like Quicklysign providing the legal framework and of course eliminating the hassle of the print, scan fax scenario, businesses are beginning to see the major benefits.
Throw in mobile devices as a perfect partner for e-signatures (more on this a little later) and capturing an electronic signature on the spot becomes an everyday occurrence.
So to answer the original question. Will e-signatures replace wet ink signatures?
Let me put it this way. There is a time and a place for everything and sometimes the mighty pen is the right tool for the job. But as we become more familiar with the e-signing process and more of our social and business activities move online, the pen will have to take a back seat and the e-signature will come into its own and become the best and only way to close any deal.