Legal Compliance

With the introduction of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 25 of 2002 (ECT Act) South Africa followed a global trend to recognize the legality of electronic signatures.

In South Africa, as indeed in most countries, the primary focus of a signature is the "intention to authenticate". The ECT Act recognizes data as the functional equivalent of writing, or evidence in writing, by guaranteeing data messages the same legal validity as messages written on paper. It states that a requirement under law that a document or information be in writing is met if the document or information is in the form of a data message and accessible in a manner usable for subsequent reference to a person who either wants to rely on the existence of a particular agreement or for record purposes.

The ECT Act defines an " electronic signature " as "data attached to, incorporated in, or logically associated with other data and which is intended by the user to serve as a signature". The ECT Act further provides (at Section 13(2)) that:

" an electronic signature is not without legal force and effect merely on the grounds that it is in electronic form "

This clearly indicates that electronic signatures are legally recognised in South African law.

The ECT Act has opened the way for organisations to leverage the significant benefits associated with the paperless environment by granting legal status to electronic signatures thereby significantly reducing the legal risk. Empowered by legislation, and driven by the significant expense reduction inherent with the paperless environment, leading business & government organizations worldwide are transitioning to electronic correspondence, e-Transactions and e-Commerce via the Internet.

 

 

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