Section Seven of the Electronic Communications Act 2000 took effect in the UK this week, making digital signatures legally admissible as evidence in court, just as a handwritten signature is legally admissible.
As business over the Internet becomes more accessible and widely used, more countries are allowing digital signatures to become legally binding.
"Electronic signatures are essential if contracts are to be concluded over the Internet," the UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said in a written statement last Tuesday.
The section of the legislation actually was officially passed, with what is known as Royal Assent in the UK in May, but was subject to two months of standard legislation conventions, according to a DTI spokesman.
"This will mainly effect businesses," said the spokesman. "But it is affecting the individual more and more, whoever wants to insure that what they've sent arrives with their signature."
The act in the UK comes into effect less than one month after US President Bill Clinton made electronic signatures as binding as those on paper by signing the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce act into law.
Now that the UK and the US both have electronic signature laws in place, it could open the path for a wave of electronic commerce between the two countries.
"The law on our end recognises signatures from overseas," the spokesman said.