Electronic Signatures Act
On June 30, 2000, President Clinton signed into law the Electronic Records and Signatures in Commerce Act (or Electronic Signatures Act). The president signed the act both electronically and using the more traditional pen-and-ink.
The Electronic Signatures Act (Public Law No: 106-229) went into effect on October 1, 2000 and gives electronic contracts the same weight as those executed on paper. The act has some specific exemptions or preemptions, notably the provision concerning student loans (section 107, (b)(3)).
Although the act enables documents to be signed electronically, the option to do so lies solely with the consumer. In other words, no portion of the act requires you to sign documents electronically, you retain the right to use 'paper & ink' documents at your discretion.
The act specifically avoids stipulating any 'approved' form of electronic signature, instead leaving the method open to interpretation by the marketplace. Any number of methods are acceptable under the act. Methods include simply pressing an I Accept button, digital certificates, smart cards and biometrics.
ECSI has carefully weighed the ramifications of the Electronic Signature Act and formulated a policy which we believe combines ease-of-use along with necessary security and privacy safeguards.
Since 1998, ECSI has been assigning personal identification numbers (PINs) for use in our on-line Internet access. The combination of a school code, an account number and a randomly assigned PIN provides the facility to uniquely identify a person. It is this uniqueness which enables us to know that the person signing a document is the person authorized to do so.
ECSI is pleased to finally make our first all-digital offerings available. Effective immediately, ECSI will begin making services available on-line which were previously restricted to 'paper & ink' documents. Watch for these new services to become available over the next several months.
ECSI is always open to suggestions or comments concerning electronic signatures or other topics. If you have any input, please feel free to address your comments to Webmaster@ecsi.net.
Below are several resources that provide additional information on the Electronic Signatures Act. These documents or sites are not maintained by ECSI and we cannot be responsible for their content.
- Text of the act in HTML or PDF (from the Government Printing Office)
- The White House Summary of the Electronic Signatures Act
- Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP provide an excellent review of the Electronic Signatures Act.
- LocalBusiness.com offers a summary of the act
- A wealth of legal information concerning electronic signatures is available from About.com
- Many principles in the Electronic Signatures Act are related to the United Nations General Assembly Resolution Model Law on Electronic Commerce of 1996