Digital Signatures Now Legally Admissible in U.K.

LONDON (07/25/2000) - Section Seven of the Electronic Communications Act 2000 took effect in the U.K. Tuesday, making digital signatures legally admissible as evidence in court, just as a handwritten signature is legally admissible.

As business over the Internet becomes more accessible and widely used, more countries are allowing digital signatures to become legally binding.

"Electronic signatures are essential if contracts are to be concluded over the Internet," the U.K. Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said in a written statement Tuesday.

The section of the legislation actually was officially passed, with what is known as Royal Assent in the U.K. in May, but was subject to two months of standard legislation conventions, according to a DTI spokesman.

"This will mainly effect businesses," said the spokesman. "But it is affecting the individual more and more, whoever wants to insure that what they've sent arrives with their signature."

The act in the U.K. comes into effect less than one month after U.S. President Bill Clinton made electronic signatures as binding as those on paper by signing the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce act into law. [See "Clinton Signs Digital Signature Bill," June 30.]Now that the U.K. and the U.S. both have electronic signature laws in place, it could open the path for a wave of electronic commerce between the two countries. "The law on our end recognizes signatures from overseas," the spokesman said.

The full text of the DTI statement can be found at http://213.38.88.195/coi/coipress.nsf/2b45e1e3ffe090ac802567350059d840/a48674076fbc146280256927003b9270?OpenDocument/.

The DTI, in London, can be reached at +44-20-7215-5000 or online at http://www.dti.gov.uk/.

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