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Electronic signatures for contracts: everything you need to know

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E-signatures are recognized around the world as a legally valid form of signature.

Did you know that the Government of Canada has had laws in place governing the use of e-signatures since the mid-1990s? Yes, really! But the use of e-signatures can sometimes still be confusing, and users need to understand that not all e-signature platforms are the same or provide the true, legally binding signatures. In this article, we’ll talk about the rules and recommendations for using e-signatures in Canada when you need to sign an important document like a contract. 

Just remember that the following information in no way constitutes legal advice, and you should always consult with counsel for all your legal and contractual questions.

What signatures really do

Fundamentally, signatures serve three purposes:

As defined by the Government of Canada, an e-signature can be almost any type of electronic representation that can be linked or attached to an electronic document or transaction, such as:

  • Using a username and password to log in to a specific application to complete an action
  • Using a stylus on a screen to electronically capture a handwritten signature 
  • Typing a name at the end of an email or into a name field
  • Clicking on an acknowledgment button to capture intent
  • Scanning a handwritten signature on a paper document
  • Recording an audible answer to a question

We’re willing to bet you didn’t know “electronic signatures” meant so many different things!

Specific e-signature requirements

Now that we know what an e-signature can be, let’s discuss a few other requirements.

Signatures establish identity, intent, and agreement. E-signatures are no different, and must have mechanisms in place to authenticate signers, demonstrate their intent to use e-signatures to sign, and a way to ensure they have read and agree to the contents.

According to Part 2 of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), the main Canadian law governing e-signatures, secure electronic signatures, or signatures that use asymmetric cryptography, are also needed to sign the following:

  • Documents used as evidence or proof
  • Seals
  • Original documents
  • Statements made under oath
  • Statements declaring truth
  • Witnessed signatures

In other words, if you want your e-signature to stand up in court, it must be a secure electronic signature.

Most PDF signatures aren’t secure

Not all e-signatures are the same. A lot of PDF software comes with the ability to add a signature, but that doesn’t mean it’s a true, legally binding, secure signature that will protect you or your company in the event of a dispute.

To really be protected, you need the peace of mind knowing that your e-signature solution meets all the requirements for secure electronic signatures.

eZsign, Canada’s premier electronic signature solution, has security features that rival those of the most prestigious global financial institutions.

Signing documents with eZsign means knowing you have the legal equivalent of a handwritten signature that will stand up in court if need be. You can read more about eZsign’s cryptographic signature details in the Compliance section of our Trust Centre.

eZsign, Canada’s premier electronic signature solution

eZsign is Canada’s best fully bilingual electronic signature solution, developed and supported by a dedicated bilingual team in Quebec. When you need secure, trustworthy, ironclad signatures, rely on our solution to give you the protection you need.

Do you have any questions about cryptographic signatures that aren’t covered in our Trust Centre? Do you have specific question unique to your team? Contact us today, we would be thrilled to explain exactly how our solution can meet your signature needs, no matter what industry you work in.

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