First of lets confirm what an eSignature actually is. An electronic signature, or eSignature is simply an electronic version of your handwritten signature that you would use on paper documents but created using your mouse, finger or stylus and used on electronic documents.
Before the technology was available to allow electronic signatures to be created companies had to either post out documents to their clients or get their clients to print out sign, scan and re-send documents which was not only slow and tedious and beyond the scope of many people.
You may see some websites utilising 'tick to confirm' checkboxes on their forms instead of actual eSignatures with some even stating that by ticking the box you are essentially adding your electronic signature. however, you won't be surprised to hear that this is utter nonsense and meaningless, a misuse of the phrase electronic signature and it simply isn't legally binding at all.
So with a more and more companies forgoing the postal service and choosing to send their documents by email it's become increasingly important to use an eSignature signing service such as eSignlite to allow clients to easily add their electronic signature to your documents but the question on most peoples lips is, are eSignatures legal or in fact legally binding?
Legal and legally binding are two completely different things, legal means are they legal to use? and legally binding means are they just as good as a document signed with a pen and do they carry the same legal weight?
Electronic signatures have been recognised as a legally binding means of signing documents and contracts in most countries around the world for a number of years now. But eSignature sites must comply with eSignature regulations set by the UK and other developed countries.
To abide by eSignature regulations a site must use the latest SHA-2 and 2048-bit encryption on all pages, store all signed documents on a secure server and log the IP addresses of their members and of document signees so that their is an electronic trail should there be any discrepancies .
Regulation also states that the signed document must be submitted complete and by the signee and nobody else, so on a compliant eSignature site the client - after signing -will see the document in full with their signature in place before submission as the signature must be added at the time of submission and the whole document converted to a portable document file (PDF) on the fly for instant viewing after signing.
The PDF file type is also important as it is the only current recognised file type because of its security, you can't add an eSignature to an editable file type such as a Word Document.
What services are not legal or legally binding
There are a number of eSignature websites and plugins too for systems such as Wordpress, most of these will simply save the signature to a file during form submission and either add it at the other end, when the server receives the form or have the end user add it to documents later which isn't just not legally binding, it is in fact illegal as you are copying a signature of another person and using it illegally on another document.
To stay within the law the client or signee must be the person adding their signature to the document and converting to a portable document file as is the case with eSignlite the current leading eSignature website for business users, no one else can use your signature in any way.
The eSignature plugins available for Wordpress are simply gimmicks have no legal precedence and are in fact illegal to use in most countries due to way they store and process your signature.
Looking for a secure, fully regulated eSignature website? Head over to eSignlite, they are currently offering a FREE 28 day trial where you can created, send and sign documents to smaple their service.