An electronic signature is an “electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.” Electronic signatures are legally binding in most business and personal transactions in almost every country in the world.
Almquist Law utilizes the "SignX" electronic signature system which fully complies with the 2000 U.S. Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act ("ESIGN") and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act ("UETA"), Canadian Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (S.C. 2000, c. 5), as well as the European Directive (EC/1999/93), all of which intended to encourage adoption of legally binding electronic documentation and paper waste reduction. Each of these acts reinforces the validity of electronic agreements. According to the ESIGN, for example, a contract “may not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely because an electronic signature or electronic record was used in its formation.”
In Arizona, as in at least 46 other states that have also adopted the UETA, electronic signatures are recognized the same way as “ink” signatures if they meet the requirements of the UETA.
Under the UETA, an “electronic signature” must consist of “an electronic sound, symbol or process … executed or adopted by an individual with the intent to sign the record.” Simply using email to communicate and transmit documents does not trigger the UETA. The UETA does not supplant common law principles of contract formation. The circumstances surrounding the electronic signature must show that it was adopted with an intent to do a legally significant act. The UETA still retains the logical common law rule that a signature is only valid if the signer intends to sign something.
Also, the electronic signature must be “linked to, or connected with, the electronic record being signed.” (UETA § 2, official cmt. 7). The official comments to the UETA illustrate the concepts in play. “In the paper world, it is assumed that the symbol adopted by a party is attached to or located somewhere in the same paper that is intended to be authenticated, e.g., . . . the classic signature at the end of a long contract.” UETA § 2, official cmt. 7. In the digital world, such “tangible manifestations do not exist.” Id. Thus, the record or documents attached to an email need to be logically associated with an electronic signature to evidence a similar level of connection.
Finally, the UETA applies only when the parties to a transaction have agreed to conduct it by electronic means. A.R.S. § 44-7005(B). Parties, however, do not have to expressly agree for an electronic signature to be effective. The UETA allows consent to be implied by the actions of the parties in transacting electronically. Whether the parties impliedly agree to conduct a transaction by electronic means will be determined from the context and surrounding circumstances of the transaction, including the parties’ conduct. Therefore, where parties have been negotiating a contract only through email correspondence or have agreed to all of the terms over email, the courts will more likely find the parties have impliedly agreed to transact under the UETA.