Electronic signatures may be recognised by law

Digital signatures may soon have the same status as those on paper Keystone

Electronic signatures could soon have the same legal status as the handwritten variety. The government on Wednesday gave the go-ahead for consultations to begin on legislation, which would recognise the validity of computer-generated signatures.

This content was published on January 17, 2001 minutes

The two-month consultation period is the first step in introducing a new law. Both houses of parliament also have to debate the issue.

The new legislation would mean contracts drawn up electronically would no longer have to have signatures added on later. Computer-generated signatures would give the documents legal force.

The justice ministry believes current legislation has to be changed to reflect the current trend towards electronic commerce and the likelihood that this will expand in future.

It says checks can be put in place to ensure that documents are not altered after they have been electronically signed.

In addition to contracts, the new legislation would also apply to purchases made by Internet. For customer protection, written signatures will still be necessary in certain cases, the ministry said.

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