IWG launches consultation on the electronic execution of documents

IWG launches consultation on the electronic execution of documents

The Industry Working Group (IWG) on the electronic execution of documents have launched their consultation which can be found here.

If you wish to submit a response to this consultation, please send it (in Word or PDF form) by 9th September 2022 to [email protected]. Please state “IWG consultation” in the subject line of your email.

Further information on the consultation can be found in the documents listed below:

The IWG was set up by the Ministry of Justice following a recommendation by the Law Commission, which the Lord Chancellor welcomed and implemented. The Law Commission’s 2019 Report found that while e-signatures are legally valid for most purposes in England and Wales, the residual lack of clarity and confidence around their use risks hindering their uptake.

The IWG’s Interim Report was published on 1st February 2022. It sets out the Group’s analysis of the current situation in England and Wales and identifies accessible best practice guidance based on existing technology, including specific considerations for vulnerable individuals. It also makes recommendations for law reform and suggests related topics for future analysis.

In the final report, the IWG will focus on its remaining Terms of Reference: to consider the challenges arising from the use of electronic signatures in cross-border transactions; how to address them; and how best to use electronic signatures to optimise their benefits when set against the risk of fraud. These issues give rise to the question of how those who provide the means to apply electronic signatures (whether platform provider or software company) should be certified and/or regulated. Certification is one way of providing assurance to businesses and consumers that digital signatures are as good as, if not better than, traditional wet-ink signatures.

For those wishing to participate in the consultation the below terms of reference should be considered:

  • consider how different technologies can help provide evidence of identity and intention to authenticate when documents are executed electronically
  • consider the security and reliability of different technologies used to execute documents electronically
  • produce best practice guidance for the use of electronic signatures in different commercial transactions, focusing on procedural steps to be followed, evidence, security and reliability where documents are executed electronically
  • produce best practice guidance for the use of electronic signatures where individuals, in particular vulnerable individuals, execute documents electronically
  • consider challenges arising from the use of electronic signatures in cross-border transactions and how to address them
  • consider potential solutions to the practical and technical obstacles to video witnessing of electronic signatures on deeds and attestation
  • consider how these potential solutions can protect signatories to deeds from potential fraud
  • to make recommendations to government and others on proposals in areas where the group consider reforms should be made

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