Electronic signatures and virtual signings (using the Law Society guidance following the “Mercury” Tax case) have been gaining popularity for some time with electronic execution given an added boost in Autumn 2019 when the Law Commission published its report on e-signatures.
The report’s key findings were that:
- Deeds and documents can be signed electronically so long as the signatory intends to authenticate the document and any relevant formalities are satisfied.
- It is possible to witness an electronic signature, but the witness must be physically present.
- Electronic signatures are capable of satisfying a statutory requirement for a signature.
Historically in the construction industry, uptake of electronic execution has been slow. Parties have generally preferred to opt for the familiar security of a “wet ink” signature. Virtual or electronic execution methods were typically reserved for special occasions, such as when signatories were based abroad and time did not allow for hard copies to be circulated.
The COVID-19 lockdown has, of course, changed a great deal. However, certain things have not changed and one of these is that construction contracts still need to be executed. In the last month, we have seen electronic and virtual execution fast become the new normal for concluding contracts. With this in mind, I thought it might be interesting to explore some of the more common queries that we’ve been encountering. Continue reading