MoJ to investigate standardisation of e-signatures

An Industry Working Group of experts has been formed to improve standards, reliability and security in electronic signatures.

The Ministry of Justice has published details of a newly-formed Industry Working Group of experts that aims to improve standards, reliability and security in electronic signatures and other means of legally executing documents.

The group was created following a recommendation from the Law Commission, backed and implemented by the Lord Chancellor, with members including experts across the legal, business and technology sectors subsequently recruited after a public appointments campaign. The group will be chaired by Mr Justice Fraser under the oversight of Lord Justice Birss, and assisted by Professor Sarah Green of the Law Commission.

Initial group meetings were conducted in the summer of this year. In addition to improving standards in electronic signatures, the group will also address best practice in the area. As such, an interim report is expected to publish at the end of this year which sets out initial thoughts and areas for further investigation, including any that may require public consultation.

The Group will make recommendations for reform to the government, as well as provide guidance for businesses and professional practitioners. The use of electronic signatures, analysis of different technologies’ security and reliability, and investigating solutions and safeguards for video-witnessing of deeds are the first areas to be identified as undergoing review for best practice guidance.

The group will also examine the use of electronic signatures in cases where vulnerable individuals execute documents electronically, consider potential solutions to the practical and technical obstacles to video witnessing of electronic signatures on deeds and attestation, and consider how potential solutions can protect signatories to deeds from potential fraud.

The government has said that it anticipates the Working Group will play an important role, alongside existing law reform projects, in “ensuring the UK is a centre for legal excellence in developing the law to support and facilitate digital trade and commerce”.

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