What’s the Difference Between UETA and California Code Section 16.5?

When California enacted the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) in 1999, it set the stage in the state for all types of electronic signatures to be widely accepted in both commerce and government. However, the state’s history with electronic signatures goes back a little further. In 1995, four years before UETA was enacted, the state passed Government Code Section 16.5, which only applied to government agencies and allowed them to use only digital signatures. It also vested power in the Secretary of State to pass regulations further defining digital signature standards.  Since then, there has been confusion between Section 16.5 and UETA among government agencies. This resource is designed to clear up the confusion.

The key thing to know about Section 16.5 is that it only applies to government agencies. It should never be referenced for private sector transactions. When the law was passed in 1995, it only allowed agencies to use digital signatures which use Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) to authenticate the signer and protect against tampering. 

Some mistakenly still believe that they must use digital signatures under this law, but in 2016 Section 16.5 was amended to specifically allow government agencies to use electronic signatures in addition to digital signatures. Now, government agencies in the state are permitted to accept both electronic signatures and digital signatures.  

For those agencies that choose to use fast and secure electronic signatures, Docusign eSignature fully complies with all California law.  Likewise, if a government agency decides it wishes to use digital signatures, Docusign also complies with Section 16.5 and all of the Secretary of State’s regulations.  Not only does it fulfill each of the factors laid out in those regulations, but it is also an Approved Digital Signature Certification Authority under those regulations.

In conclusion, the passage of Section 16.5 and UETA has caused some confusion for government entities in California. However, as the number one electronic signature provider as well as an approved Digital Signature Certification Authority under the California Secretary of State regulations, Docusign is fully compliant with both UETA and Section 16.5.  

Related Topics