Gordon Ramsay teaches us a lesson out of the kitchen: Is an electronic signature binding?
Many celebrities, presidents and even the Queen use a device called a ghostwriter, an autopen or a signing machine. It copies the signature from the master version and reproduces it many times using a real pen. This is deemed to be more authentic than simply printing a scanned signature.
Earlier this year, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, lost a court battle after a judge ruled that a signature from a ghost-writing machine used by his father-in-law, to sign a lease for a pub on his behalf was genuine and binding in law.
Generally, in order for a binding contract to be created the key elements of offer, acceptance, consideration, intention to create legal relations and certainty of terms must be present. The application of these principles does not depend on the particular technology that is used to create the contract.
The courts have upheld the validity of a wide variety of methods of making a signature. Whether the mark which appears in a document amounts to a signature depends upon whether its inclusion was intended as a signature. The test is therefore one of intention not form.
If a party creates and sends an electronically created document including an electronic signature, he will be treated as having signed it to the same extent that he would in law be treated as having signed a hard copy using a “wet-ink” signature. The fact that the document is created electronically as opposed to a hard copy makes no difference.
We continue to watch this developing area of law with interest and will provide further updates as the law evolves.