Now that the electronic delivery of insurance policies and notices about them has been clearly authorized by the Georgia General Assembly (click here for an earlier post on this subject), the next step for agents who want to continue to work toward a truly paper free office and realize the savings in time and money that result is the use of electronic signatures for documents that, in the past, had to be physically signed by the insured (e.g., an application for or waiver of coverage). As with the electronic delivery of policies and other documents, there are both legal and practical issues associated with using electronic signatures on documents. ACORD has published an analysis by a well known law firm of these issues, which was the subject of an article by Jeff Yates of the Agents Council on Technology.
For those of you who have followed my blog posts and articles in the Dec Page magazine on the electronic delivery of insurance policies and other documents, the legal requirements for the use of electronic signatures will be familiar. They are essentially the same as for the electronic delivery of such documents. The consent of the customer to the use of electronic signatures must be obtained and that consent is subject to the same disclosure requirements in consumer transactions as for the electronic delivery of documents. However, the burden of proving the electronic signature of a customer involves much more than proving the electronic delivery of a document.
While it may be enough under Georgia law to prove that a document was delivered electronically by obtaining a receipt of delivery from the recipient’s internet service provider, proving the validity of an electronic signature requires much more. You must be able to prove not only that an electronic signature was obtained, but also the identity of the person who gave that signature and that the document to which it relates has not been changed since the date of the signature. The analysis published by ACORD contains guidelines for developing procedures to accomplish these requirements.
There are several technology providers who offer products that they claim will fulfill all the legal requirements. One of those providers is DocuSign, which has been endorsed by the IIABA and offers a discount to IIABA members. Another is Silanis, which has recently published a marketing brochure that explains how its product addresses the legal requirements discussed in the ACORD analysis. That brochure provides a good summation of those requirements and is worth reading for that reason alone.
If any of my readers have begun using electronic signatures in their agencies, I would appreciate hearing about your experience.