When signing a paper contract, it is not uncommon to be required to add two-three handwritten signatures (on different pages or in different sections, of course). This is applicable for the other signing party(ies) as well. Is there a legal argument / reason for such practice? In fact, when dealing with paper documents, there is a need to ask for specific consent or for a strong commitment from the signer on several sections of the document. Such practice is also meant to avoid the substitution of pages, protecting thus the structure and content of the deed.

This common paper practice has been translated “as is” into the digital world. Paper documents are no longer printed, they are saved as PDF documents and then sent to be signed. They often include multiple signature fields, inducing to the signer the idea that they should be filled. To make matters worse, some e-signature providers even enable multiple signatures from the same signer on the same PDF document. Others allow customers to apply a second signature, but as soon as it is executed, the initial one becomes invalidated or disappears. This leads to more confusions, wasted time and it might even impel signers to develop “workarounds” (such as copy pasting the image of the e-signature) just to have the document signed.

Just as in the case of digital initialing, the e-signature mechanisms take care of the issues related to consent or content tampering. One single e-signature is enough to give consent over the entire content of the document. Furthermore, the e-signature “locks” the document to a specific time, signer identity, certificate etc. to prevent subsequent changes. We should mention that this is applicable only when the e-signature covers the entire document (such as in the case of PAdES format). However, there are also other e-signature formats, e.g. XAdES, which allow signing individual parts of a document and, in such contexts, it can make sense to sign engagements on different aspects/parts of a document.

Thanks to e-signature, multiple signatures on the same PDF document are no longer needed to conclude deals or accept the specific conditions of certain sections of the document. It simplifies document and our activity. To make the switch to digital, the structure of the agreements needs to be reviewed and adapted. One simple way would be to remove unnecessary signature fields in order to assure the signer that one e-signature is enough.

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The above represents LuxTrust’s understanding of the relevant law or regulation and should not be taken, relied on or interpreted as a legal opinion. Customers are encouraged to seek independent legal advice before taking any action or decision based on this information. LuxTrust may not be held liable for damages that may result from the use and/or interpretation of the information contained in this document.