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Electronic signatures bill sent to Governor

MADISON - A bill that will make signing on the virtual line the same as signing on paper, is on its way to Governor Doyle’s desk. The Wisconsin Legislature passed a measure that will help move our state toward a paperless society. Consumer advocacy groups, business groups and contract law attorneys hailed the bill’s passage.

The Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) is a bi-partisan measure known as Assembly Bill 755 (AB 755). State Representative Ann Nischke (R-Waukesha), state Senator Ted Kanavas (R-Brookfield) and state Senator Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay) introduced the bill to officially recognize electronic transactions as being equal to those on paper.

The move would have Wisconsin following the same guidelines as those used by the federal government for electronic transactions. Currently, 44 other states approach the business of electronic transactions in a similar manner proposed by the Wisconsin bill. Electronic transactions have become increasingly popular in the business of real estate in which deals often are signed with digital codes by a county register of deeds.

“This is about removing barriers to electronic commerce,” Nischke said. “It recognizes that electronic transactions can be as good as exchanging papers. It increases confidence and certainty in the transaction,” she said.

AB 755 states that contracts which are executed electronically or online, such as through e-mail or by clicking "I Agree," may not be denied legal enforceability solely because they are in electronic form.
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“As Wisconsin moves into the paperless new world, we need to make sure we are addressing questions about the validity of electronic signatures, messages, contracts and record keeping,” said Kanavas. “This is especially important as we move into the development of e-commerce and e-government.”

The Act provides a clear framework for covered transactions and also avoids unnecessary surprises for unsophisticated parties dealing in this relatively new media. The act balances clarity and certainty while still providing a solid legal framework that allows for the continued development of innovative technology.

“It is time to bring Wisconsin into the 21st Century,” said Cowles. “Most states have implemented similar legislation already and this bill will only help businesses and consumers become more efficient and save money.”

The new law would only apply to parties that have agreed to conduct transactions electronically.

The governor must sign AB 755 before it can become law.

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