Organisations  plans for going paperless will come to a screeching halt when you need to get someone’s signature on a document.

That process typically involves printing the document, signing it yourself, faxing it to the other party, and waiting for them to print, sign, and fax it back—where it’s printed yet a third time and filed away in a cabinet forever.

This process takes time in turn cost to the business. Is there a better way to manage this?

Electronic signature have been in place for long time and not many people have the inside knowledge in understanding this.

What is an electronic signature?

An electronic signature can be defined as any electronic method carrying the intention of being a signature, for example, a scan of a person’s signature into a contract.

An ‘electronic signature’ is a broader concept than that of a ‘digital signature’, which is a mathematical process for determining the authenticity of a digital message. Keep in mind, however, that a digital signature is a type of electronic signature.

Electronic signature software and their purpose

Electronic signature schemes have become big business. In fact, the electronic signature software is on track to grow north of $5 billion by the end of the decade, according to DocuSign (an electronic signature software) web site. These software tools represent a high-tech and much-needed response to the vast inefficiencies of dealing with physical signatures.

While these software’s vary from provider to provider, the general idea behind them is the same. You upload a document—Word, PDF, or even an image file—to an online service, then tag it with special annotations where signatures eventually need to go. The service sends this marked-up file to your specified recipients, who then “sign” it with a few clicks, either with stock cursive fonts or with a scrawl they draw using their mouse (or a finger, using a tablet) on the fly. When finished, the signed file is sent back to you, mission accomplished.

What are the applicable laws in Australia?

Electronic signatures are governed by a wide range of laws in Australia, under both Commonwealth and state legislation:

  • Commonwealth: Electronic Transactions Act 1999 (Cth);
  • NSW: Electronic Transactions Act 2000 (NSW);
  • Queensland: Electronic Transactions (Queensland) Act 2001 (Qld);
  • Victoria: Victoria: Electronic Transactions (Victoria) Act 2000 (Vic);
  • ACT: Electronic Transactions Act 2001 (ACT);
  • South Australia: Electronic Transactions Act 2000 (SA);
  • Western Australia: Electronic Transactions Act 2011 (WA);
  • Tasmania: Electronic Transactions Act 2000 (Tas); and
  • Northern Territory: Electronic Transactions (Northern Territory) Act (NT).

If a party wishes to sign a legal document electronically, whether this will be effective will depend on:

  • The jurisdiction — what law applies to the document or transaction?
  • The transaction — is the legal requirement excluded from the electronic communications laws?
  • The method used — does it identify the signatory? Is it reliable?
  • The signatories — do the parties consent to the method used?

If all of these criteria are satisfied, the electronic signature will most likely be binding on the parties to the contract.

Electronic signature softwares

Based on your organisational requirements, technology landscape and required outcomes one of the following can be shortlisted –

DocuSign : A major service provider to the real estate industry, Google-backed (for google drive) DocuSign is a straightforward and feature-filled service that any business should find simple. Upload files to DocuSign (DocuSign puts your files in “envelopes” that you can send as a group), then drag and drop signature boxes onto the documents where you want those autographs. DocuSign then emails the documents to the recipients you specify. You can also set reminders that prod your recipients to e-eign, and set documents to expire if they haven’t been signed in a timely fashion. A dashboard lets you keep track of all your outstanding and completed contracts. iOS and Windows 8 tablet versions are available.

EchoSign : EchoSign (from Adobe) looks and acts a lot like DocuSign, and is comparable to it in most ways. You upload documents, set signature locations (or just specify one signature at the end), and send contracts via email. A simple dashboard lets you track the status of all outgoing and incoming contracts.

A couple of interesting features in EchoSign include the ability to incorporate faxed signatures for recipients who prefer to sign by hand, and an extra layer of verification that lets you require the recipient to enter a password you provide or other personal information, such as the last four digits of their Social Security Number. Naturally, integration with various Adobe products makes this an appealing option for PDF-centric shops. iOS and Windows 8 tablet versions are available.

 

About Prometix: At Prometix, we design implement and support Microsoft based technology solutions that help our client’s staff to more easily use and share information as individuals and in teams. We work with our clients to establish a structure that makes information easier to create, store, find and share with others. We’ve worked hard to understand how people want to access and share information.

For more information on our success stories please feel free to call us on (02) 8072 0666 or email enquiries@prometix.com.au

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