Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act
The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN, Pub.L. 106-229, 14 Stat. 464, enacted June 30, 2000, 15 U.S.C. ch.96) is a United States federal law passed by the U.S. Congress to facilitate the use of electronic records and electronic signatures in interstate and foreign commerce by ensuring the validity and legal effect of contracts entered into electronically. In 2010, both Houses of Congress passed a resolution at the request of industry leaders, recognizing June 30 as "National ESIGN Day."
Although every state has at least one law pertaining to electronic signatures, it is the federal law that lays out the guidelines for interstate commerce. The general intent of the ESIGN Act is spelled out in the very first section(101.a), that a contract or signature may not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely because it is in electronic form. This simple statement provides that electronic signatures and records are just as good as their paper equivalents, and therefore subject to the same legal scrutiny of authenticity that applies to paper documents.
Sections from the ESIGN Act
ESIGN Act Sec 106 definitions
(2) ELECTRONIC- The term 'electronic' means form; and
(2) a contract relating to such transaction may not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely because an electronic signature or electronic record was used in its formation.
Section 101 of the ESIGN Act, sub-section (b), preserves the rights of individuals to NOT USE electronic signatures. Here the law provides that individuals reserve the right to use a paper signature. Sub-section (c) is in direct support of (b) by requiring a Consumer Disclosure that the signatory has consented to use an electronic format.
Section 101(c)(1)(C) states that the consumer also "consent electronically, in a manner that reasonably demonstrates that the consumer can access information in the electronic form that will be used to provide the information that is the subject of the consent"
Retention of contracts and records
Section 101(d) provides that if a law requires that a business retain a record of a transaction, the business satisfies the requirement by retaining an electronic record, as long as the record "accurately reflects" the substance of the contract and is "accessible" to people who are entitled to access it "in a form that is capable of being accurately reproduced for later reference, whether by transmission, printing or otherwise."