Productivity

Test your knowledge of electronic signatures

Krishan Sharma
Technology Journalist

Krishan Sharma is a freelance journalist who writes for various consumer tech and business IT publications

Krishan Sharma
Technology Journalist

Krishan Sharma is a freelance journalist who writes for various consumer tech and business IT publications

Highlights
  • Both electronic signatures and digital signatures are recognised under Australian law as having the same effect as handwritten signatures.
  • Electronic signatures typically don’t require both the sender and receiver to use the same digital signature app.
  • With electronic documents, you don’t need to worry about manually reprinting and redistributing for changes and resigning.

Electronic signatures (sometimes called eSignatures) provide a quick, inexpensive and easy way to sign and receive digital documents. Businesses have taken advantage of the many conveniences that electronic signatures offer for almost 20 years.

Today, electronic signatures are an essential piece of technology that sits at the heart of a connected business. Chances are, the software you currently use to drive your business supports the use of electronic signatures.

Man electronically signing on a tablet in a store. Electronic signature apps like DocuSign allow users to sign on virtually any internet-enabled device.

However, there are still some smaller businesses who are either unsure about how to use them or remain sceptical about its validity.
 
If you fall in this camp, then take this quiz, which covers many of the most common questions and myths people have around the use of electronic and digital signatures.

  • 1. An electronic signature and a digital signature are the same thing

    Answer: False

    The terms "electronic signature" and "digital signature" describe two related but different technologies. Both types of signatures are created online and are applied to online documents. An electronic signature can be as basic as a typed name or a scanned image of a handwritten signature and, as such, might be sufficient for routine tasks or documents. But if the business revolves around major contracts then a more secure type of electronic signature should be used.

    A digital signature is a more secure version of an electronic signature, creating a cryptographic 'fingerprint' unique to both the signer and the content that cannot be copied, forged or tampered with. The encrypted data includes the signer’s identity and the time that the document was signed, making the signature much harder to dispute.

    Apps such as DocuSign allow you to use electronic signatures by default but can also handle digital signatures for an additional cost.

  • 2. Electronic signatures are as legal as signing a contract in pen

    Answer: True

    Both electronic signatures and digital signatures are recognised under Australian law as having the same effect as handwritten signatures. In other words, electronic signatures are legally equivalent to paper-based signatures, and this has been the case for well over a decade.

    Of course, if anyone were ever to dispute an electronic signature, you might have a hard time proving the person signed the document or that it hasn’t been tampered with unless the more secure digital signature was used.

    Note that there are a few exceptions where documents cannot be signed electronically. The Electronic Transactions Act 1999 (Cth) outlines a list of documents that cannot be signed electronically and these include any documents that are required to be signed by a witness, such as deeds.

  • 3. Electronic signatures are legally valid across international borders

    Answer: True

    The United Nations Electronic Communications Convention dictates that electronic signatures are to be treated in the same way as handwritten signatures. It’s worth noting however that not all countries have ratified the Convention. Thus some international parties may still require handwritten signatures.

  • 4. With an electronic signature, both or all parties need to have the same electronic signature app to work on and sign the same document

    Answer: False

    Electronic signatures typically don’t require both the sender and receiver to use the same digital signature app. With DocuSign for example, signers don’t need to have a DocuSign account, and they don’t need to buy anything or download any additional software. Signing with DocuSign is completely free. Only the user sending out the document for signing needs to set up a DocuSign account.

  • 5. Electronic signatures are more secure than signing documents with a pen

    Answer: True

    Electronic signatures are actually more secure than signed paper documents. Electronically signed documents created with specialist eSignature software like DocuSign are embedded with the details of those who signed them (typically including IP address, time, date, email address and geographic location). More advanced implementations of electronic signatures such as digital signatures can also prevent tampering, forgery or unlawful modification. This makes them not just court-admissible but highly effective legal documents with a comprehensive audit trail.

    DocuSign also offers additional security features such as the ability to keep track of where the document is in the signing process and boasts some of the highest security features in the industry, exceeding the security requirements of banks and Fortune 500 companies globally.

    With signing documents manually, you run the risk of the document getting lost in transit or potentially falling into the wrong hands. Of course, no digital platform is impervious to security breaches, but it is at the very least, better protected than traditional paper methods.

  • 6. Signing important documents with a pen is free

    Answer: False

    Signing documents with a pen isn’t really free. Paper agreements need to be photocopied then mailed or couriered for signature or signed in person - not to mention the admin time spent following up people who don’t sign and return by the due date. Safeguarding paper documents from prying eyes or against potential destruction or theft requires more time and expense. Digital signature apps like DocuSign eliminate all those costs from the equation.

  • 7. Errors can be easily corrected with electronic signatures

    Answer: True

    With electronic documents, you don’t need to worry about manually reprinting and distributing to each party to check for changes and resigning. Making amendments to digital documents is about as simple as making an adjustment as approved or uploading a corrected version.

  • 8. I can’t easily review electronically signed documents on-demand

    Answer: False

    While electronically signed documents are exceptionally difficult for hackers to get to, it doesn’t mean they are off limits to signatories. Simply log in to review what you have signed or to double-check the terms of an agreement.

  • 9. You need to be tech savvy to use electronic signatures

    Answer: False

    The client or customer receiving the document to sign does not need to be tech savvy or even learn a new piece of software to digitally sign your document. If they can use email, it will be a breeze. By simply clicking the link in an email, the customer or client can start the document signing process on virtually any internet-enabled device. Tabs and simple instructions guide the recipient through the signing process, and once they’re done signing, the sender will automatically be notified.

  • 10. All electronic or digital signature tools are the same

    Answer: False

    Not all electronic or digital signature tools are created equal. Popular choices include DocuSign, PandaDoc, Adobe Sign and RightSignature and they all differ when it comes to features and benefits. PandaDoc and Adobe Sign, for instance, offers features such as the ability to create sales proposals and quotes . DocuSign, on the other hand, goes above and beyond the others by helping to ensure security and protection.

Interested in implementing electronic signatures into your workflow?
Find out more

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