Electronic signatures provide a quick and secure method to sign documents. In 2000, the United States passed the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN). With this act, electronic signatures became legal in every U.S. state and territory where federal law applies. Most states adopted the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) for situations where the federal law does not apply.
ESIGN and UETA Acts
In the ESIGN and UETA acts, there are four major requirements for an electronic signature to be recognized as legal under U.S. law.
These are the four requirements:
- Intent to sign: eSignatures are only valid if the parties intended to sign the document.
- Consent to do business electronically: Electronic records may only be used in transactions when consumers have agreed to use electronic records for the transaction and received UETA consumer consent disclosures.
- Association of signature with the record: To qualify as an electronic signature, the system used for the transaction must keep a record that reflects the process the signature was created.
- Record retention: Electronic signature records must be capable of retention and accurate reproduction for reference. All parties are entitled to a copy of the contract.
U.S. Life Sciences Regulations (21 CFR Part II)
Depending on your industry, federal and state regulations may impose additional requirements beyond standard eSignature laws. For instance, 21 CFR Part 11 explains the requirements for electronic signatures to be accepted by the FDA.