Law Commission: electronic signatures also acceptable to sign deeds


The Law Commission has published a report confirming the Commissioners' view that electronic signatures can in all instances replace "wet ink" signatures, including deeds.

The report also makes recommendations to address some of the practicalities of electronic execution and the rules for executing deeds.

The recommendations include:

  1. The creation of an industry working group ­­– to consider practical and technical issues around electronic signatures and provide best practice guidance for their use in different types of transactions.
  2. Video witnessing for deeds – the industry working group should look at solutions to the practical and technical obstacles that exist to video witnessing. Following this work, Government should consider legislative reform to allow for this.
  3. A future review of the law of deeds – to consider broad issues about the effectiveness of deeds and whether the concept remains fit for purpose and specific issues which have been raised by stakeholders. The review should include deeds executed on paper and electronically.

The Land Registry has also confirmed that, under Section 91(5) of the Land Registration Act 2002, an electronic document will be regarded for statutory purposes as a deed if it complies with the provisions of that section. The section applies when an e-document purports to effect a disposition of a registered estate, charge or a noted interest, or is a registrable disposition.

Under the EU Electronic Identification and Trust Services for Electronic Transactions in the Internal Market (the "eIDAS regulation"), an electronic signature cannot be denied legal validity simply because it is electronic. Yet another EU Regulation making international commerce easier, cheaper and less burdened by a myriad of national rules.

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An electronic signature is capable in law of being used to execute a document (including a deed), provided that the signatory intends to authenticate the document and that any relevant formalities, such as the signature being witnessed, are satisfied. The Commission’s view is based upon legislation and court decisions which relate to both non-electronic and electronic signatures. ... The courts have considered electronic signatures on a number of occasions and have accepted electronic forms of signatures including a name typed at the bottom of an email or clicking an “I accept” tick box on a website.
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