Buying a new sweater online and accepting the terms of purchase, downloading an app to your phone, or signing with your finger on an iPad to accept a job offer – in each instance your actions are the same as signing your name on paper.
eSignatures can take various forms, but they all allow us to enter legally binding contracts without having to go through the slow and cumbersome process of physically signing a document.
As a result, the use of eSignatures has become widespread throughout all aspects of business. But often people ask whether an eSignature is just as good and legal as a written signature.
What is an eSignature?
First off, what is an eSignature? According to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, an eSignature is a “signature that consists of one or more letters, characters, numbers or other symbols in digital form incorporated in, attached to or associated with an electronic document.”
In other words, an eSignature can be as simple as a typed name or a digital image of a handwritten signature that is attached to an electronic document.
Are they Legal?
eSignature laws have been enacted in all provinces and territories in Canada. With these legal changes, eSignatures are now treated as functionally equivalent to handwritten signatures for most purposes.
In some provinces, like Ontario, you can even complete an entire real estate transaction only using eSignatures. When buying a home, this drastically reduces the mountains of paperwork that you would formerly need to sign with your lawyer.
There are a few documents where it is still required to put pen to paper and physically sign. Wills, certain court documents like affidavits, and real estate transactions in Alberta are all examples where the law still requires a physical signature.
With new ways to confirm identity being released all the time (like facial recognition on the new iPhone X), we’ll likewise see more legal processes permitting eSignatures. And this benefits everyone by making it more convenient, quicker, and cheaper to complete what used to take days of scanning, faxing, and printing.
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