The spread of Corona has been on the rise since its outbreak in China. Initially, it hit China and the European countries, but after that, the United States of America, Latin American countries, and Asia also faced the same situation. However, while talking about the United States, the outbreak has been devastating.
To slow or stop it, the federal and state authorities took necessary actions related to staying home, keeping social distancing, and implementing strategies to avoid social gatherings. During this pandemic, the companies also took necessary actions to keep their employees away from corona virus.
The most important aspect in this regard was to allow the employees to stay home and complete their tasks from there. This trend is continuing in most states of the country, and somehow, increasing as well.
In this situation, the procedure of signing contracts and documents has been stopped or slowed down because wet ink signatures are required, and for that, physical presence is important.
To overcome this issue, the experts recommend using one of the best electronic signature apps in the market that may reduce the chances of an increase in the pandemic.
What do officials suggest about E-Signature in Covid-19?
The government authorities have also recognized the value of electronic signature apps for limiting the spread of the pandemic. For that, the New York government allowed to use remote electronic notarization, which helped a lot of companies to improve their documentation process.
This initiative was adopted by other states as well, which means the nationwide use of electronic signature was accepted. The basic purpose of this electronic notarization is to sign the documents while living at different locations.
Moreover, the Securities and Exchange Commission also implemented some rules to make sure that the members should file the documents without taking much tension about the signing procedure.
It becomes more relevant for the issuers and filers, as previously, they needed to follow the rules and regulations strictly, especially related to signatures.
What do businesses think in this situation?
Even though most organizations try to work in a digital environment, the acceptance level about the electronic signature is below average. Normally, the companies love to prefer “wet ink” signatures, as they consider it more legal, professional, and acceptable. The reason is that they do not believe that e-signatures are equally viable, legal, and valid. They are uncertain, whether they go for electronic signatures or not.
It looks weird, as when we talk about fax machines, which have been in use since the early 1900s, and almost every business uses it for sending, signing, and receiving documents, but still, they do not find electronic signatures, closer to their heart.
Maybe the reason is that the acceptance level for new technology has been reduced in the world.
The fact is that the businesses are now more aware of the technology than the past. They use smartphones, computers, and laptops regularly. They also use these devices for sending files, taking photographs, sign the documents by taking the picture of their signatures and paste them in the relevant documents, taking prints, and submitting to the relevant organization or department.
This activity has such a worth that iOS phone offer Notes app that helps you take pictures of all the pages, belong to the document, and combine them in a single file, so you can send it with ease and comfort as a single document.
This feature has made the smartphones, a fax machine, as you can follow all the procedures and techniques to submit the document, as you do with the fax machine. If the businesses can do it, electronic signatures will suit them more due to the compatibility of these solutions with other applications and software.
Discussing Electronic Signature Types
The definition of electronic signatures is quite comprehensive and detailed. Therefore, the experts divide them into different types to develop a wide level of understanding about this term among the masses.
These types depend largely on the confirmation procedure of the signatures, the acceptance level for the documents after attestations, the procedures of scanning, clicking, and printing the documents, and agreed terms.
However, in the specific scenario of the US market, we can divide electronic signatures into two types, which are electronic and digital signatures.
Differentiating the types of E-Signatures
Electronic signatures are more common and popular among the masses because to follow them, we can use any electronic process to confirm or agree that we have accepted the document. For example, if someone signs a white paper, takes the image of it, or scans it, converts it into a file, include it at the specific location of the document, other parties accept it.
Conversely, when we talk about digital signatures, you need a certificate-based digital ID. To get this certificate, you will go to the certificate authority that will generate a unique ID, which can be used only for demonstrating the signature. If you will not do so, your signatures will not be accepted.
While talking about the signature issuing authority, it will be the third party that has all rights to exercise this duty according to law. This authority generates a pair of keys for the individuals and companies on their behalf, which are private and public.
In this way, the signer, who holds the private key, signs the document and forwards it. After that, encrypted digital signatures have been created by mathematical algorithms. Time boundaries are also included in this procedure, and after completion of this period, no one can modify it. In this way, security and encryption can be achieved successfully.
Both types of electronic signatures are in use in different organizations. These types largely depend on types of contracts and agreements that the businesses use for signing purposes. The companies decide themselves according to the security and confidentiality that they need for the documentation process.
If a company high level of confidentiality, digital signatures should be preferred because, in this way, they can minimize the risks of breaches and frauds. However, if you think that electronic signatures can fulfill your cause of using technology for signing the documents in Covid-19 Pandemic, they can go for the simple methods.
What are the basic requirements for Electronic Signature?
The basic requirement is that the companies and individuals must agree that the electronic signatures will be used for the contracts and agreements. With that, the business entities will also be identified that will sign the documents electronically, and no other will be allowed to do so.
We need to mention specifically that electronic signatures are in use in many companies before Covid-19 Pandemic, so they will continue the process as it is, and there is no need to change in the processes.
Besides, the companies or individuals need to ensure that they are following the requirements, which are given below:
The electronic signature should be reliable. It means that the signer must identify that the signatures are of him/her and if it not so, the validity of the agreement will be on stake. For that, there should be a piece of reliable evidence that the agreement has been signed in time that has been defined previously.
To achieve this target, the businesses involve third parties, who make sure the security and sanctity of the document. For that, they use device identifiers or IP addresses, which tell them that the authentic person has signed the document. With that, they also define the date and time, which enforce the concerned parties to sign the document within a specific time; otherwise, the document will lapse.
These third parties also make sure that there is no change in the content of the document during the signing process, and if they find that a party or parties try to change the content, the process is stopped. This whole procedure keeps the sanctity and security ensured.
There should be consent among parties that they will use electronic signatures for the agreements and contracts.
The parties need to express that they are agreed on the use of e-signatures. To achieve this target, the parties add a clause in the agreement about the use of e-signatures. Sometimes, the parties show reasonable grounds through which the consent can be examined and approved by the third parties.
Another important aspect in this regard is to show consent that the under-observation document will be agreed upon if the parties sign the document electronically.
The agreement of sending the emails or using cloud applications for signing purposes will also be based on the consent. To avoid any doubt during the process, all these clauses must be included in the document.
If all parties agree that this process is fully authorized and with the consent, the contract or agreement will be law-binding, and all the parties must follow all the clauses, mentioned in the document. If a party or parties try to violate the agreement or any specific clause, all the laws will be implemented, as are defined.
Discussion on Digital Signatures in Detail
For the concerned companies, the best practices are to utilize digital signatures for signing purposes. The reason is that you have a complete and comprehensive procedure of audit trail. In this way, temper-evident and encrypted digital signatures are used to make sure that everything is unique and no one has tried to change it.
If someone tries to do so, the system does not allow. Moreover, third-party confirmation about the uniqueness of the signature gives you maximum protection during the signing process. You can assume it by thinking that the inclusion of a picture of wet signatures can be used more readily.
On the other hand, uniquely designed electronic signatures are difficult to use. The reason to make the system complex is to provide the maximum security for the signing purpose, and it can be the basic requirement for the companies in the case of taking a competitive advantage over others and keep the procedures and processes intact.
When do you need to use Electronic Signatures during Covid-19?
The law of the United States of America legally binds the companies to use an electronic signature. Since 2000, these signatures are in use for many organizations. With time, these laws have been improved, and during corona virus, the value of this law has widely been accepted.
Although some states may differ, the federal law provides the businesses, broad application that can be applied to all contracts that are under the definition of interstate commerce.
When we look into details, there are two key points, which must be considered for law satisfaction. First, the record must be presented only when the person’s action is based on the consent of the person; otherwise, it must not be presented.
In this way, the computer or any other machine must not be attributed to the person. Second, the agreement will be accepted only when the agreed parties will be agreed on the process. It means that no party other than the agreed ones cannot be entered without the consent.
These laws under the specific condition of Covid-19 allow businesses to use electronic signatures for the safety of their employees and other concerned people.
The authorities want to use electronic signatures for the continuous process of the businesses. According to these laws, most documents can be electronically signed, except adoption papers, court orders and notices, power of attorney, divorce decree, official court documents, wills and trusts, briefs and pleadings, codicils, product recalls, a notice of default, documents that are related to hazardous materials for transportation, a notice of foreclosure, notice of material failures, and notice of repossession, etc.
The Steps to avoid Repercussions in using E-Signatures
It is very important during corona virus and after the pandemic to know the situations in which electronic signatures cannot be used or you may face due to their use. We have mentioned some documents for which the federal or state law does not allow you to use electronic signatures.
There may be some other variations too, which do not allow you to use these signatures. It is also important to mention that some states allow you to use electronic signatures for a specific document, but you may face issues when you try to use the same procedure in other states.
So, to make sure that you should not face any repercussions due to these signatures, you need to develop maximum awareness about the law.
The businesses should also keep an eye on the relaxations that authorities allow in the specific environment of Covid-19 Pandemic, and will not be allowed after its end.
If you have been involved in using these relaxations, you should take care that after this period, you may go for a renewal process, as this relaxation will not valid at that time.
Another important aspect of this discussion, which cannot be ignored, is the use of electronic signatures in the emails. The businesses need to keep an eye on unintended consequences during the procedure of using electronic signatures.
According to law, if you are sending an email with all the details that are required for an agreement along with the meetings of the minds, the names of the agents at the end of the email with the confirmation that the written names will be an electronic signature, and have included the intent, it will be considered an agreement.
To avoid it, you must add a disclaimer that will clarify the purpose of the email, and tell what is the purpose of this email. It becomes more relevant when the parties, engaged in the email, have accepted that electronic signatures will be used for signing the documents.
Covid-19 Pandemic has devastated the world at a large scale, and no other event can compete it in disturbing the world so drastically. However, technology has been able to meet the challenges due to corona virus. We can find numerous opportunities that have been generated due to technology in our surroundings.
Electronic signature solution providers have become one of the torchbearers, who have been helping the businesses and individuals to run their legal and official processes without creating many issues.
To maintain social distancing and completing the legal requirements, the businesses can use electronic signatures through which the signing procedures can be completed without facing issues.
This technology has not been helping the businesses in the current pandemic situation but will also help them use this technology for future agreements and contracts.
The official authorities and governments also understand the value of electronic signatures in the current situation, and therefore, have defined some temporary and permanent solutions to make the signing process more convenient.
They have also defined some flexibility in the execution process of the documents and contracts. It is now up to the businesses how they will use the flexibility, offered by the federal and state governments in the laws, and the utilization of technology in the form of electronic signatures for the continuation and improvement for their business operations and processes and taking a competitive edge over others.