What is an electronic signature and is it legal?

According to the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act - Act 25 of 2002, an electronic signature is:

"data attached to, incorporated in, or logically associated with other data and which is intended by the user to serve as a signature."

A broader definition is:

 "an electronic indication of intent to approve or agree to the contents of an electronic document or form."

In layman's terms, an electronic signature (often referred to as an e-signature) is a person's electronic expression of his or her agreement to the terms of a particular document.

Is an electronic signature legal?

Yes, it is.

Electronic signatures are valid and legal in South Africa, the United States, Canada, the European Union, the UK, and many other areas of the world. (View more about the legality of electronic signatures here.)

Legislation defining electronic signatures and digital contracting have been adopted worldwide since 2000, and South African authorities followed suit and paved the way for digital contracting through the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act - Act 25 of 2002. 

Most countries have realised how burdensome ink signatures have become in our fast-paced and globalised economy: ink signatures slow down the contracting process and create a paper management problem.

e-Signatures in South African Law:

ECTA (Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 25 of 2002)

Section 2(3) of the Consumer Protection Act

Section 1 (12) of the Companies Act.

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