The 21st Century, third millennium, digital decades, electronic era… no matter which way you spin it… the digital age is upon us and seems to only garner more momentum and speed with each passing year.
Since its inception nearly two decades ago, the fabric of the new millennium has been sewn together with defining digital processes that bring unprecedented convenience and capability to our evolving market.
One of the defining digital stitches of this fabric is, you guessed it…
But as we begin to round out the era’s second decade, many still don’t know exactly what an electronic signature (eSignature) is, how it can be used, or its many benefits—or that it has its own national holiday for that matter.
So, what is electronic signature exactly? We’re glad you asked. What follows is an overview of how eSignature is defined, its legality and its benefit to consumers and businesses alike.
How is Electronic Signature Defined?
According to current U.S. legislation and the Electronic Signature & Records Association (ESRA), eSignatures are defined as:
“an electronic sound, symbol or process that is attached to or logically associated with a record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.”
The versatility of its definition—sound, symbol or process—allows eSignature vendors like AssureSign to offer multiple solutions with the capacity to capture an electronic signature (here’s the difference between digital signature and electronic signature) by way of voice, computer, or even a mobile device.
The way a business implements eSignatures, their method of deployment, and even the customer-facing interface is highly unique to their mode of business and the type of transaction involved.
Sales contracts, for example, often parallel the traditional signing process. The reviewer is faced with multiple documents and is asked to initial or sign in one or more locations. Now, consider online purchases from Amazon… Despite its many nuances from what you may traditionally consider to be a “signing” process, the action of purchasing products from their digital shelves is, by legal definition, an electronic signature! (cool, huh?)
Are Electronic Signatures Legal?
Speaking of eSignature legality… this is a query our sales team receives fairly often.
The short answer?
In the U.S., electronic signatures were legalized and recognized as synonymous to its traditional counterpart after the passing of the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) and the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) in 1999 and 2000, respectively.
Together, these two pieces of legislation allow electronic signatures to conveniently replace the aged, wet ink signature, so long as the three legal hallmarks of eSign are met:
- The signer is who (s)he claims to be. If needed, a signer’s identity can be confirmed or authenticated using various digital markers, such as an IP address.
- The signer’s intent to sign is captured. The parameters of the transaction are communicated and the signer unequivocally intended to undergo the process and method of signing.
- The signature is associated with the document or record is verifiable. This speaks to the signing process: (1) how was the document signed? (2) what action did the signer complete? And (3) what evidentiary documentation is present to support the electronic transaction? Additionally, these records must be retained by the business or originator.
To illustrate how AssureSign meets and exceeds the three legal pillars of electronic signatures, take a look at how Jadu uses our eSign integration with its content management software for higher education:
When students (signers) receive documents for eSignature, they are not only required to input login credentials to access the document within their online student portal, they must also satisfy questions generated by AssureSign’s knowledge-based authentication (KBA) when completing sensitive processes like their financial aid elections.
KBA ensures students are who they claim to be by requiring correct responses to a series of questions generated by public data sources. The student’s intent to complete and sign off on the process is made clear through the presentment of required disclosures, AssureSign’s terms and conditions, and the eSigning process. After the process is completed, AssureSign associates the student’s financial aid elections along with their consent to electronically signing the documents. Jadu then securely and confidentially retain these records for verification.
Not only does AssureSign allow businesses like Jadu to exceed all electronic signature requirements in the U.S., our process is compliant with nearly every set of laws governing electronic signatures across the globe.
For example, in the EU, the Electronic ID and Trust Services (eIDAS)—also known as Regulation EU 910/2014—provides a tiered legality of eSignatures based on a number of factors on behalf of the vendor and user. More recently, the EU enacted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which stipulates how the private data of EU citizens must be handled. AssureSign is self-certified with the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, meaning our eSignature meets or exceeds the EU’s legal requirements and our users can leverage digital transactions with its citizens.
What are the Benefits of using Electronic Signature?
Not only do intercontinental laws and provisions allow transactions to take place across borders, electronic signatures diminish the amount of time, cost and oversight associated with these transactions while bringing increased velocity and simplicity to business exchanges.
eSignatures shorten the lifecycle of transactions. What’s more, AssureSign users have access to document audit trails, which relay where signers are in their signing process and how much progress they’ve made.
After United BioSource Corporation UBC adopted AssureSign’s eSignature, their average transaction completion time plummeted from 11 days to under one hour. UBC can now provide timely and critical medical care to their patients, faster!
Paper, ink cartridges, shipping/mailing charges, and other extraneous costs are all but eliminated when businesses adopt eSign.
Just ask Captorra. After leveraging AssureSign’s electronic signature, the legal intake software vendor reduced these costs by over 90 percent! Captorra uses this newly found revenue to seek and hire the best talent the market has to offer.
Many processes require tiered responses and multiple steps as part of their workflows, but HR workflows likely take the win.
Particularly, employee onboarding requires a lot of back-and-forth emailing, signing, and so forth. After integrating with AssureSign’s eSignature, PowerObjects can handle the entire employee recruitment and onboarding process in just a few mouse clicks. From cradle to grave, PowerObjects maintains its HR entire onboarding workflow with greater efficiency and less maintenance.
To see how YOUR business can begin benefiting from electronic signature, check out this post about discovering your eSignature use cases… or download your free copy of the “Getting Started with eSignature Technology” eBook!
This post was originally published in August 2015 and has been updated for freshness and relevancy.
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