By Christina Gill
In a consultation paper published in August 2018 the Law Commission has sought to address legal uncertainty surrounding the electronic execution of documents, which is causing practical problems in today’s fast-paced, technology-driven business world. For example, whilst basic contracts can be validly formed without any documentation or formality, other contracts and legal documents must comply with certain formalities in order to have legal effect. In particular, contracts for the sale of land must be in writing, contain all agreed terms and be signed by all parties; and transfers, charges and some leases must be made by deed (which involves signing, witnessing and attesting).
Whilst EU legislation and the UK courts accept electronic signatures as valid; and whilst HM Land Registry is, as a matter of policy, moving towards digital conveyancing, the relevant UK statute, the Electronic Communications Act 2000, does not expressly allow electronic signatures. Neither does the law of England and Wales comprehensively confirm anywhere the validity of electronic execution in the context of deeds.