As with any paper document, e-signatures come with rules to abide by. But sometimes, documents and signatures — even those with wet ink signatures — may be contested in court.
“If that happens, it’s critical to make sure your e-signatures provide undeniable proof of their validity,” said Pem Guerry, executive vice president at SIGNiX, an independent e-signature company. In order to avoid a negative court ruling, keep in mind these three mistakes that could undermine an e-signature’s legal validity:
Mistake #1: Your signer isn’t authenticated. In today’s technology-driven landscape, receiving information not intended for you is a common — yet avoidable — occurrence. High-level authentication methods, such as two-factor authentication, require signers to prove their identity by confirming their log-in information, answers to pre-selected questions or by entering a code sent to their email address or cell phone.
“Authentication, in addition to comprehensive audit trails, legally validates that the intended signers view and sign only their document under only their privileges,” said Guerry.
Mistake #2: Your signer doesn’t know they are signing a legal document. To uphold legally compliant electronic signatures, you must prove that the signer knows he or she is signing a legal document. Basic legal disclosure and consent language, which the signer must read and approve before signing a document, secures this.
“Depending on your business’s policies, you may need to alter the consent language to cover all bases,” Guerry advises.
Mistake #3: Your document isn’t protected from unauthorized alterations. Documents must include tamper-evident technology, using cryptography such as digital hashing and encryption, in order to retain legal validity. Ensuring that this technology is included in your e-signature software and makes each and every signature tamper-evident will negate any prospect of alteration.
“Many solutions are reliant, or dependent, upon a link to the e-signature vendor for proof, and it is critical that the evidence be embedded in the signed document and completely independent of the vendor,” Guerry warns.
Keeping these mistakes in mind, evaluate whether or not your electronic signature solutions provider meets your legal needs. If your documents are ever challenged in court, make sure you can show a clear, comprehensive authentication method, audit trail and proof of tamper-evident technology. It never hurts to cover all your bases.