Questions about electronic signatures? Here are the FAQs (and answers)
If you’ve noticed a surge in the use of digital documents and electronic signatures recently, it’s not your imagination. The COVID-19 pandemic caused organizations and individuals to shift the way they did business.
It’s not that e-signatures weren’t being used before the pandemic. From basic box-checking to encrypted digital authorizations, electronic signatures have enabled businesses and individuals to make their mark without touching pen to paper for decades.
In a global survey of IT executives, 74% reported that their organizations were using e-signatures before the pandemic. But, as organizations sought ways to limit in-person interactions, the ability to finalize agreements, acknowledge notices and give consent over the internet went from convenient to crucial. In the education sector alone, e-signature use rose 250% between January 2020 and January 2021!
E-signatures are a tool that isn’t going away. However, that doesn’t mean that people don’t have some questions about the technology. In fact, a lot of people have the same questions.
So, we put together this set of FAQs and answers to help.
What exactly is an electronic signature?
At its most basic, an electronic signature is any digital signal or mark that indicates the signer’s intention to, well, sign something. These signatures are affixed to a digital document or website form to gain acknowledgment, agreement or consent.
Is an electronic signature the same as a digital signature?
Electronic signatures may be categorized as standard electronic signatures (SES) that enable the signer to indicate their consent or advanced electronic signatures (AES) which include tracking and authentication elements that allow them to be authenticated and associated with the person who executed the signature. Both types are electronic signatures, but usually, when someone refers to a digital signature they mean an AES.
Does your e-signature have to look like your regular signature?
Sometimes people scan their physical signature and paste the resulting image into a digital document to sign it. But, an electronic signature doesn’t have to look like the person’s handwritten or “wet” signature to be considered legally binding. It doesn’t even have to be a representation of the person’s name. You can make your mark with the check of a box or the click of a button.
Are e-signatures legal?
Even in regulated industries, e-signatures that meet specific requirements are legal and enforceable. The United States, European Union, and other jurisdictions have passed laws and regulations permitting electronic signatures to be treated the same as physical signatures when disclosure, consent and other criteria are met.
Is signing electronically secure?
AES signatures come with unique digital identifiers, access controls, encryption and other systems to protect them from being signed by someone who isn’t authorized to do so. The entire document is locked to ensure that no one can change its contents without the knowledge and consent of each person who signed it. This provides better security than a multi-page physical contract that is vulnerable to having pages swapped out or altered without detection. ReadySign combines several methods to keep your documents secure and create an audit trail you can trust. You can read more about our security technology here.
What types of documents can be e-signed?
Individuals, organizations, and government entities use e-signatures to sign contracts, acknowledge memos of understanding or indicate acceptance of notifications. A single digital document can be signed by multiple parties or just one person. Healthcare forms, financial disclosures, school permission slips, IEPs, purchase orders, and employment onboarding forms are just a few examples of documents that can be e-signed.
Some documents, such as bankruptcy court filings and family and estate law-related items, still require a wet signature. But for most individuals and businesses, e-signatures are a convenient and viable alternative to pen and paper. Your e-signature vendor can help you identify any documents that cannot be signed electronically.
Does everyone who signs the document need to install an app?
Signatories don’t need to install any special software to sign documents sent to them using an electronic signature app. The signing process is handled in the app’s environment. An interactive signature process highlights each field that the recipient needs to sign, initial or otherwise mark. This guided signing process guarantees a complete document with no missing or omitted authorizations or acknowledgments.
What type of device do users need to sign a digital document?
The top e-signature apps, including ReadySign, are device agnostic. Once a document is digitized and ready for distribution, signers can access it from the device of their choice, whether that’s a desktop, mobile phone or tablet device.
Does it cost signers anything to e-sign the document or download a fully-executed copy?
No. Depending on the provider and service plan they choose, the person who creates a document for e-signature may have to pay a fee. But, their signers don’t have to pay to view, sign or download a copy of the document.
Where can I learn more about e-signatures and how they can help my organization save time and money, reduce paper waste, and manage documentation from anywhere?
The team here at ReadySign is ready to help you minimize the hassles of getting signatures so you can focus on getting the job done. Get in touch and discover how your organization can use digital signature technology to streamline the process of obtaining signatures from internal and external stakeholders, partners, vendors, customers and clients.