date01 July 2017

What protection is offered by an electronic signature?

The delivery industry is quickly turning digital, especially when it comes to capturing signatures. In workplaces and on doorsteps across the UK and beyond, pen and paper is being shunned in favour of electronic alternatives and it’s not difficult to see why.

Efficiency, sustainability and cost-savings are the reasons cited by most organisations, but it’s important to be aware of the legalities surrounding electronic signatures before using them yourself.

The Electronic Communications Act 2000

Established at the turn of the millennium when computer use in the mainstream began to rise rapidly, the Electronic Communications Act 2000 permits the use of electronic signatures in the UK. The rules aren’t as simple as you might expect, however.

The system of law in the UK is technology-neutral, so a judge would always consider the purpose of a signature rather than the format it is in, and then attempt to determine whether it proves a person intended to sign a document or not.

Types of electronic signature

As a result, there are several types of electronic signature that could be used to confirm identity or close a contract. Examples include:

Personal Identification Number (PIN) – Commonly used to obtain cash from cash machines and to complete purchases with a bank card.

Digitally written signature – The same as a conventional handwritten signature but drawn on a screen using a stylus.

Scanned signature – A scan or photograph of a conventional handwritten signature, often added to typed documents.

Typed name – The user’s name simply typed into a form.

‘Accept’ button – Clicking ‘I accept’ on a digital form, usually after providing personal details to confirm identity.

The type used will usually depend on the electronic proof-of-delivery (ePOD) technology in place.

The protection on offer

As the government points out in its guide titled ‘Electronic Signatures and Trust Services’, electronic signatures – in any form - are only as secure as the technologies used to create and process them, so it’s important that you invest in the right solution. This is especially true if you’re dealing with high-value transactions.

Recent amendments to the Electronic Communications Act mean that electronic signatures can now only be used by individuals. Previously, the Electronic Signatures Directive allowed for them to represent businesses too.

If a signature can be clearly identified as signalling intent or acknowledgement from a customer, though, it gives you all you need to legally determine that a delivery took place and that it happened exactly as expected.

TouchStar specialises in making the process of obtaining proof of delivery simple for businesses. We offer a range of rugged devices, specially designed tablet computers and easy-to-use software to keep everything running smoothly for you and your drivers.

To find out more about how our products can benefit your business, contact our expert team today.