Signing and executing contracts is expected to get significantly easier with the Australian launch of Livesign, a mobile application that taps secure passport data – and a selfie taken by the user at the time of signing – to verify a signer’s identity without a third-party witness.
The need for witnesses to a signature has been a legal verification of identity (VoI) requirement for centuries, in order to avoid fraud and ensure that signatories can be held accountable for their contractual commitments.
Yet even when contracts are transmitted digitally, signature pages or entire contracts have typically had to be printed, signed, witnessed, and scanned for sending back to the originator – creating masses of work and administrative duplication.
State and federal laws have long allowed electronic signatures to carry the same weight as signatures on paper – a process that was accelerated as the COVID-19 pandemic forced a transition to contactless signing – and the market has responded with an explosion of e-signature solutions enabling the signing of a digital document using a finger on a smartphone or tablet.
Those processes also require the signature of a witness – but with the release of Livesign, The Law Store CEO Ian Hendey said, parties to a contract can now verify signatories’ identities by checking biometric details against the official details electronically stored on chips in passports from over 120 countries.
Using an approach also recently adopted by the government’s MyGovID service, the app takes a ‘selfie’ photo of the signer and checks this, and other key identity details, against the digital image stored on the passport chip.
The information is also cross-checked against Medicare cards or other identity documents to confirm the identity of the person using the app.
“Digital signing and digital VoI are no longer just conveniences, they’re an expectation, especially in industries such as conveyancing and mortgage lending,” said Ian Hendey, CEO of thelawstore.com.au, which created Livesign.
“We identified the need for a technology solution to allow you to sign a document and prove your identity at the same time.… we’re increasing the security of the witnessing process to provide the safety of in-person witnessing with the convenience of digital.”
Sign your name, across my smartphone
Digital signing has been heartily welcomed by financial services organisations, where identity verification processes can drag out the signing of voluminous contracts and other administrative documents.
LiveSign delivers “a clear VoI experience for our clients, alleviating what was previously a major pain point for our firm,” noted Perry Russel, legal practice director with Keylaw Conveyancing Solicitors, who sees the integrated solution as pivotal in catering for customers that “demand simplicity and value”.
Gateway Bank has leveraged LiveSign to streamline its identity verification and document signing processes from 12 days to five minutes – a change that, head of customer operations Zeb Drummond said, “has removed barriers for customers in rural and regional areas Australia-wide… whilst also mitigating fraud, operational and security risks.”
The move to digital signatures “really is a one-way street,” Dan Bognar, DocuSign APJ group vice president and general manager Dan Bognar said in introducing the company’s recent Momentum APAC 22 conference.
“The systems of agreement that have been built,” he said, “are so impactful that there’s literally no going back to pen and paper.”
Long a dominant player in an e-signature market projected to surge by 36.1 per cent annually through 2029, DocuSign has drawn plaudits from clients such as the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, which has reported that electronically signed loans are funded 20 days faster than paper loans.
DocuSign last year partnered with Australia Post to leverage that company’s own digital VoI services – but by combining digital signing with PoI features in a single app, LiveSign goes a step further: “effectively,” Hendey said, “a mobile phone has become the secure witness in a digital world.”
Universal electronic document signing is a major component of the Morrison government’s Deregulation Agenda, which saw the release of a new issues paper late last year as it works to finalise a nationally-consistent way of digitally signing legally binding documents.