ESIGN Act Overview
In October 2000, Congress passed the federal ESIGN Act, making electronic signatures legally equivalent to written signatures. The ESIGN Act includes provisions to:
- Protect the consumer with appropriate notifications and disclosures
- Ensure technological neutrality and universal access
- Ensure authentication and privacy
- Create legal certainty and protection to prevent fraud
- Allow easy document access and record retention
As the integrated solution of electronic signatures, DigiSign is compliant with the provisions of the ESIGN Act, providing protection for both the sender and the signer during the signing process. Below are the specific aspects of DigiSign’s compliance:
Consumer Protection and Notification
This provision is designed to protect the signer and conspicuously disclose information to the consumer so they can affirmatively consent to sign using an electronic signature – the notification must be disclosed so that it is timely, clear and conspicuous, and presented in a clear way that is easy to understand.
DigiSign notifies the signer that they are being asked to sign using an electronic signature a number of times before they actually e-sign the document. In addition, DigiSign offers a unique feature that allows the customer to decline signing the contract with an signature. The screenshots below demonstrate the three key notification points that DigiSign provides during the signature process.
Notification Point #1: Body of the email
DigiSign notifies the signer they can use an electronic signature in the body of the email.
Notification Point #2: Point of Signature upon initiation
DigiSign notifies the signer they are using an electronic signature at the point of signature, offers a clearly marked option to choose a signature that best mirrors theirs, and includes a consumer disclosure which can be read prior to signing.
Notification Point #3: Point of Signature upon canceling to sign
If the user chooses to not esign the document they can simply refuse to sign the document or sign it later.
Notification Point #4: Completion of signing process
Upon the signer completing the signing process, they are asked further to stay and review or fully complete the signing. In the even they stay and review they can cancel the signing process at that point along with the first 3 steps.
Technology Neutrality and Universal Access
The ESIGN Act does not prescribe the use of a particular technology for the transmission of electronic signatures; rather, the Act leaves those choices to the marketplace. However, this provision in the act mandates that the consumer has access to a computer, to the Internet, and to the necessary software required to open the documents.
DigiSign uses email as the main form of delivery and authentication for an electronic signature. Users can sign contracts using an email package, or any Internet browser. This ensures the customer has multiple access points to sign the document, and can use the option with which they are most comfortable. This also ensures that the consumer is signing a document in a familiar and secure environment, and is not required to learn a new piece of software to sign a document with an electronic signature.
Authentication and Privacy
As stated above, DigiSign uses email as the main delivery medium for contracts. This ensures that consumers have the same security when signing documents that they have when accessing their personal or corporate email. In addition, the sender can use a password to protect the contract and communicate this password to the signer (also known as “out of bandwidth” password protection) separately.
Legal Certainty and Fraud Protection
This provision is aimed at protecting both businesses as well as the consumer. Businesses should be assured that they obtain consent and provide documents in a manner sufficient to make the electronic signature transactions legally valid. Consumers should be protected from businesses changing the terms of the contract. Both parties should have easy access to an electronic trail to confirm the transaction.
As stated above, and as a means to protect both the sender and the consumer, DigiSign provides ample notification to the signer indicating that an electronic signature is required to sign the document. In addition, during the signature process, the contract can be reviewed by the signer, but cannot be altered; protecting both the signer and the sender from unauthorized changes. DigiSign implements esignatures in a clear, easy to read format (for both parties) which includes a unique transaction/envelope number (see screenshot below). In addition, DigiSign also provides a secure audit trail — tracking every step in the signature transaction such as when the contract was sent, when the contract was viewed, and when the contract was signed. This audit trail (see screenshot below), can be downloaded to a PDF file ensuring that the consumer has a detailed history of the transaction.
DigiSign’s electronic signatures are clear and easy to read which protect both the signer and the consumer.
Digisign’s detailed history report can be saved as a PDF and emailed to the signer with a copy of the executed contract.
Document Access and Retention
This provision ensures the ability of all parties to easily access contracts and retain records.
After the contract has been signed, DigiSign automatically emails the signer and the consumer a copy of the executed contract as an attachment to the email. The executed contract has been converted to a secure PDF file to prevent changes post execution.
- Gartner Research: In Nov, 07 Gartner published a report titled: “Findings: The Legal Precedent for eSignatures is a Non-Issue” with the following summary — The effectiveness of a signature solution is not determined by the legal precedent for the acceptance of the signatures. Rather, it depends on good process management, good document control and the maintenance of a clear chain of evidence. To read the report in-depth please visit www.gartner.com.