The report of the Legal Committee is clearly not the last word on this subject. If the proposed Industry Working Group is established, we can expect more consistent and practical guidance. Such a user-oriented approach would be welcome. Otherwise, we will have one piece of the factory, on a case-by-case basis, towards an entirely electronic future. If the contract is not executed effectively, it is void. As a result, your business can lose valuable suppliers, customers and investments. This practical note deals with CE-File`s electronic work in court according to CPR 51O in case management. It provides instructions on how to file a document electronically, process rejected electronic submissions, issue an electronic request, provide electronic packages (eBundles) in case we have reviewed an increasing number of electronically signed documents, including transaction agreements, and we would expect this to continue if things return to normal. There are excellent applications for electronic signature documents that offer comfort, digital security and clarity as to exactly when the document was received, signed and sent. However, there may still be scenarios in which a wet signature is required or in which it is not possible for someone to sign a document electronically, perhaps because they do not have the required technology. If the parties like to manipulate things digitally, this should generally not cause problems, but it is always better to get legal advice if you are not sure that a document can be executed virtually and signed electronically. The neocleous v Rees case examined whether a microsoft signature/microsoft foot automatically generated in an e-mail by lawyers acting for parties wishing to settle a land dispute could constitute a “signature” within the meaning of paragraph 2 Property Act (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989 (LP (MP) A). The good news is that, in transaction agreements, it has been common for many years for parties not to sign a printed copy of the document and instead enter into the agreement by e-mail with scanned copies.
We have been doing this for a long time and it is generally going very well. It is interesting to note that the acts are more difficult. In principle, the Report of the Legal Committee sees no reason not to use electronic enforcement approaches. However, there are distinct problems with the requirements for signing a witness and delivering. Testimony is recognized as important for two reasons. It helps to underline the importance of the enforcement process for the signatory and can also offer protection against counterfeiting or constraints. While the physical presence of the witness is the default position, the legal commission was prepared to consider the possibility of a distant or virtual witness, assisted by legislation. The next step is to recommend a practical analysis of the proposed industry working group.
The courts are becoming more relaxed, as people sign their contracts. We`ve seen a lot of examples in recent years – a name that went into the bottom of an email, clicks on a “I accept” field on a website and identifies information in the header of a SWIFT message. These reflect the realities of modern business, where most communications are telephone or electronic and where those involved are often pressed for time to do things. On a practical level, users of the most well-known electronic signature platforms can be pretty sure that their contracts will be valid. Cross-border transactions and deeds will require more attention. The last example, Neocleous v Rees, included the use of an automatic email footnote. This was sufficient for the Tribunal not only to execute the contract (here a transaction contract), but also to meet the additional legal requirements of a land sale contract.