The Industry Working Group on electronic execution (IWG) has published its Final Report which contains recommendations to promote and facilitate the electronic execution of documents.

The IWG, a multi-disciplinary group of business, legal and technical experts, was established by the Government in the Spring of 2021 following the Law Commission's 2019 report on the Electronic Execution of Documents. The Law Commission had concluded that e-signatures were valid for the vast majority of business transactions and legal processes, but recognised that uncertainties regarding the mechanics of executing documents electronically were having a potential impact on the use of electronic signatures. It therefore recommended that the IWG produce best practice guidelines and make proposals for further reform. Further information on the Law Commission 2019 report can be found in our blog post here.

The IWG published an Interim Report in February 2022 which:

  • analysed the current situation in the United Kingdom, including the different types of e-signatures;
  • set out best practice, including factors to take into account when deciding whether an e-signature is appropriate, and the process for executing documents with e-signatures; and
  • made recommendations for further reform.

The Final Report now addresses two remaining issues from the IWG's original terms of reference:

  • Challenges arising from the use of electronic signatures in cross-border transactions - Among other things, the IWG recommends that the UK considers adopting the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Signatures and notes an ongoing need for education and reinforcement of the positive attributes of e-signatures; and
  • Potential solutions to protect signatories to deeds from the risk of fraud - The report highlights various protections which are, or could be, offered to users by e-signature platforms, including time limits for signing and the ability to reject a deed.

The Final Report also recommends that consideration be given to whether e-signature platform providers should be certified and that a set of minimum standards be introduced to bolster the integrity of, and public confidence in, the e-signing experience and process.

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