In 2019, most countries welcome the use of electronic signatures as a way to move beyond the norm of paper-based documents and signatures. Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the European Union and many others have established laws regarding the signing of documents by an electronic means.

While there are multiple ways to sign electronically, there is only one correct way to do so and that is using industry-based standards of cryptography that satisfy these laws.

Digital signatures in Australia

Under Australian law, a handwritten signature is no longer the only way to be bound to a contract. Contracts are generally considered legally when parties reach an agreement, whether they agree verbally, electronically or on a physical paper document.

The Electronic Transactions Act of 1999 specifically confirm that provided certain requirements are met, and a relevant exception does not apply, contracts cannot be denied enforceability merely because they were concluded electronically.

Digital signature providers can provide electronic records that are admissible in evidence under Australian laws to support the existence, authenticity and valid acceptance of a contract.

Electronic signatures and digital signatures

Electronic signatures and Digital signatures are often used in place of one another, but each term carries a unique set of defining features and specifications. The broader category of e-signatures can often include digital signature, which is a specific type of technology used to implement electronic signatures.

An electronic signature is often referred to as a legal concept, by definition it’s purpose is to record an individual’s intent to be legally bound to a contract or agreement, whereas a digital signature refers to a specific type of encryption and decryption technology used to create an electronic signature. Digital signatures are created upon public-key cryptography technology which allows any one with a copy of the document signed via this method to verify the authenticity of it against the original.

When you are looking for a provider as a means to send and sign documents electronically, it is important to ensure that the provider has been built upon digital signature technology to guarantee the legality and integrity of the document itself and the signatures being captured. Without this digital signature technology your electronically signed documents will not be legally binding and may introduce unwanted risk for your organisation.