The primary objective of the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA,) which can be found on the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) Web site (www.nccusl.org, Final Acts and Legislation link), is to establish the legal equivalence of electronic records and signatures with paper writing and manually signed signatures, thus removing barriers to electronic commerce. In other words, UETA assures that electronic signatures and transactions have the same legal effect as “wet” signatures and paper documents.For example, if a notarization is required, the requirement is satisfied if the electronic signature and the information to be required by other applicable law is attached to or logically associated with the signature or record.
According to UETA, the signature must be:
- Unique to the signer
- Capable of being verified
- Under the signer’s sole control
- Linked to the record in a way that it can be determined if anything in the document was changed after the signature was applied
- Created by a reliable method for the purpose in which the signature was used
NCCUSL finalized UETA in 1999.
The act, which is designed to support the use of electronic commerce, has been adopted in 46 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The four states that have not adopted UETA are Georgia, Illinois, New York and Washington. These four states have adopted electronic signatures and records laws, but these laws are not a form of UETA as drafted by NCCUSL. Illinois and New York enable most electronic transactions, while Georgia’s and Washington’s laws are more limited in scope.
UETA allows for electronic commerce but does not require transactions to be conducted electronically.
UETA is considered an “overlay” law because it does not amend a specific law. UETA is procedural, instead of amending every law; lawmakers look to UETA for a legal force and effect of an electronic record or signature.
NCCUSL commissioners must be lawyers, qualified to practice law. Commissioners are lawyer-legislators, attorneys in private practice, state and federal judges, law professors, and legislative staff attorneys, who have been appointed by state governments as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, to research, draft and promote enactment of uniform state laws in areas where uniformity is desirable and practical.
NCCUSL is 116 years old.