Happy Cyber Monday everyone! I am sure you all are hard at work after Thanksgiving, trying to secure the best deals you can. So I will keep this brief and let you get back to your online shopping, but I will make it relevant to what you are doing. Today’s Boilerplate Blurb is all about Electronic Agreements.

Are Electronic Agreements just as Valid as Paper Ones?

Yes, thanks to the Electronic Signatures in Global and International Commerce Act (the E-sign Act) and Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) you can electronically “sign” for electronic documents. Thus when you send a draft of a contract offer and ask the opposing side to “sign” it and e-mail it back the electronic contract and the electronic signature are as legal and enforceable as traditional pen and paper contracts.

What about “Click to Agree”?

Yes, an e-contract can also be formed when you “Click to Agree” (I will talk about “clickwrap” agreements on another Boilerplate Blurb). So when you are on a website or installing new software on your computer your action suffices to form a contract. Therefore, when you log on and download new software or online game, and you scroll really fast, ignoring the terms and conditions or end-user license agreement (EULA), just so you can get to downloading new media or playing your game sooner, you are giving your agreement to the company’s e-contract.

But There was No Way for Me to Sign it, is that a Valid Signature?

Yes, in fact you can indicate your acceptance via “e-signature” through a variety of methods that will legally bind you to the contract. If you shop online, as much as you are doing so today, then you have seen them. The “I Accept” button, using the “scrambling” technology where you have to type in the funky looking text that spells out random things, or typing your name in the signature box, or even pasting your scanned signature in are all valid methods.

Must I use the Company’s Electronic Agreement?

I know someone there is curious, even though it strikes me as odd that you are reading a blog and your question is how to opt out of electronic agreement even though you are probably using the Internet to read it. Anyway, short answer, no, you don’t have to, as you are and businesses are given the right to choose to continue to use paper. However, when a company gets a consumer’s consent for electronic use, they must give prior notice telling you whether paper contracts will be available and if you change your mind later, and what that paper agreement what are the costs.  The notice also needs to tell you if your agreement is for the one-time transaction OR applies to a larger group of transactions. Therefore, you might have to agree more than once if you continue to interact with them or you agree once, but have signed off on a whole bunch of future transactions.

Are there Times that I Cannot Use an Electronic Agreement?

Yes, certain types of documents MUST be in paper format. They include some of the following:

  1. family-related documents (such as wills, adoption and divorce papers);
  2. safety, health, or specialized industry situations (such as insurance, product recalls, or hazardous material transportation); and
  3. legal and real estate matters (such as court orders, notice, foreclosure, and eviction).

Good luck with your cyber shopping, and if you get dizzy from the sales take a break and read what you are agreeing to when you click and buy! If you enjoyed this post or any of my others please “Subscribe” to this blawg.

*Disclaimer:  This post discusses general legal issues, but does not constitute legal advice in any respect.  No reader should act or refrain from acting based on information contained herein without seeking the advice of counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.  Ryan K. Hew, Attorney At Law, LLLC expressly disclaims all liability in respect to any actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this post.

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