The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (ECTA) of 2002 allows for electronic signatures in South Africa.
The legislation in South Africa follows the EU Directive on electronic signatures. eSignatures may be used as a signing form by any business operating in the South African market, and they are handled the same as handwritten signatures.
It's a mechanism to guarantee the integrity of an electronic document and to authenticate the author. The electronic signature can't be cancelled or reproduced on another document and is impossible to counterfeit. Since 1 July 2016 – the eIDAS regulation (electronic identification and trust services) became law – its minimum legal value is the same throughout the European Union. This regulation specifies that the qualified electronic signature has the same status and legal effects as its handwritten equivalent.
It's no surprise that digital signatures are becoming increasingly indispensable in the various commercial exchanges within the banking and insurance, retail, human resources and real estate sectors.
From our work implementing electronic signatures here at CM.com, we've compiled a list of the top 10 advantages of using electronic signatures.
1. More Efficient Use of Time
Compared to traditional signatures, the electronic signature saves a lot of time since it's possible to send a document to be signed by several signees in just a few clicks. In sectors like banking and insurance, the electronic signature makes it possible to conclude sales outside business hours or subscribe to online offers 24/7. An electronic contract will always be ready to be signed in seconds, reducing the file processing time. A customer or a partner can sign a document via any device (mobile phone, tablet, PC, etc.) without having to go back to the office or use a scanner to send it.
2. Lower Costs
According to a study conducted by CM.com, the electronic signature can lower operating costs by around R 1,4 million in a year or so if it is used via a web application or by R 1,6 million through the integration of an API (based on 500 signed documents per month and two signatories per document). Indeed, the paper management of contracts and other documents are more expensive compared to the use of e-signatures (in terms of travel, shipping costs, use of paper, etc.).
3. Follow the Progress of Files
The electronic signature makes it possible to follow the progress of files in real-time. Thanks to a digital certificate, it's possible to trace each modification or action performed on the original document. A tracking tool integrated with most electronic signature solutions can also trace the progress of signatures and send an automatic reminder to recipients who haven't signed the document. This tool informs everyone involved where each document is in the signature loop.
4. Secure Access and Identity of the Signatory
According to the eIDAS regulation, the use of an electronic signature provides three levels of security:
- Standard: a checkbox
- Advanced: the identity of the signatory is linked to the signature
- Qualified: each signatory must first identify with a trusted service provider.
While standard or wet, signatures are easily counterfeited, advanced and qualified e-signatures have a higher legal value and can be used for high-value and high-risk agreements. These categories of signatures make it possible to guarantee the identity of the signatory while conforming to regulations on the protection of data (GDPR and POPIA), which aims at greater transparency and responsibility when it comes to the sharing of personal data.
5. Increased Sales
Potential sales can break down at any moment, which is why businesses must ensure that the sales journey is as seamless and hassle-free as possible. Asking customers or clients to print, sign, and scan documents is likely to lead to a sales dead-end. Electronic signatures, on the other hand, help streamline the sales process. This is great news for sales teams, who reportedly spend as much as 21% of their time on admin. With e-signatures, you can reduce this figure, so your employees have more time to get those deals over the line.
6. Mobile Friendly
The number of smartphone users has increased by a staggering 73.9% in the last five years. Today, individuals use their phones to conduct research, shop, manage their bank accounts, and much more besides. People prefer the flexibility and portability of mobile devices. With electronic signatures, individuals can sign important documents wherever they are - they simply need to have their smartphone with them.
7. Happier Customers
Customers and clients appreciate speed and efficiency. Sending documents electronically gives customers the time to read agreements carefully at their own pace and sign them with the click of a button. By allowing clients to sign documents electronically, you show that you respect their busy schedules. With a smoother document signing process, they’ll be more likely to conduct repeat business with your organisation.
8. Lower Environmental Impact
An average office worker uses approximately 10,000 sheets of paper every year, and that’s without even considering the environmental impact of manufacturing printer ink. With electronic signatures, there are fewer printouts required and fewer trees that need to be cut down.
9. Reduces Errors
A single error within the contractual process can be extremely costly. Paper-based systems, including traditional signatures, are more likely to contain typos and other mistakes. With e-signatures, however, automation and validation processes can greatly reduce the number of errors that go unnoticed - something that your clients will undoubtedly appreciate.
10. Go Digital-First
In the business world, first impressions matter. With electronic signatures, you can show your clients that you are a modern, digital-native company that is keen to embrace innovative approaches to doing business. Digital transformation has optimised so many aspects of the business world - why not apply it to your contract signing process too?
Transform Your Document Signing With Sign
To summarise, the digitalisation of services and processes is helping to accelerate trade in the world across many sectors. On a daily basis, the electronic signature facilitates interactions between companies, individuals, and public organisations.
Being able to choose the level of security appropriate to the needs of companies also allows us to rethink and modernise the way information and documents are accessed, managed, and secured within organisations.