The advent of e-commerce and the development of information and communication technology over the years has transformed business practices across Jamaica.
On November 14, 2006, the Jamaican Government, via the House of Representatives, developed a piece of legislation by the name Electronic Transactions Act. The bill established a legal framework by which electronic commerce can be governed. Most importantly, the law also aimed to promote public confidence in the validity of electronic transactions and communication, in particular via the use of electronic signatures.
In Jamaica, wet-ink signatures are not required for an agreement to be deemed legally valid. When two legally competent persons have reached a verbal, written, or electronic agreement, that contract is usually considered to be valid.
Overview of Jamaica’s legal model
Jamaica operates under a “Common Law” system. This system is quite different from the Religious Law system (based on religious texts) and Civil Law System (based on codes). It worth noting, some legal systems may also comprise a combination of two models or, in some cases, all three of these types.
The common law system started in England. And Jamaica, like most of the Commonwealth Caribbean, inherited this law model from there. In its original form, this legal model was based on societal norms and customs and enforced by the decrees and judgments of the courts. However, over time, the common law also embraced legislative enactments as well as judicial decisions interpreting their applications.
Now, it’s good to note that, in the common law system, decisions of the court are heavily dependent on prior judicial pronouncements. Therefore, in Jamaica, a court’s decision is a compelling and binding authority for similar cases arbitrated by the same court.
Cases that come before Jamaican courts deal with myriad situations. But notably, disputes involving technologies, global developments, or new discoveries usually raise novel legal concerns. This is because; they have not been previously determined in Jamaican courts, and no binding precedent exists.
The Jamaican law, however, allows the judges to refer to other jurisdictions or to borrow from present or past judicial experience for analogies in order to come up with relevant rulings. The flexibility allows the courts to address novel situations so that no issues, including electronic signature issues, are left without a remedy.
The e-signature law in Jamaica
Jamaica has a tiered legal model. Like we mentioned earlier, this means that almost all e signatures are deemed legally valid unless explicitly declared otherwise.
This Caribbean country has embraced the majority of the international standards of electronic signatures through the Electronic Transactions Act 2006. The act allows for legal recognition of e-signatures as long as:
- They (e signature) can be clearly linked to the signatory,
- It is evident that the person has consented to the method used in signing and that the said method is reliable,
- The signatory is also linked to the data or information contained in the document being signed,
- The e-sign is within the sole control of the signatory
- Notifications of any subsequent modifications to the document being signed are sent to the signatory.
When are electronic signatures appropriate in Jamaica?
There are three main types of acceptable e signs:
- Standard electronic signatures (SES) – This is a form of signature where signatories can type or draw on any electronic device.
- Advanced electronic signature (AES) – This form of signature uniquely identifies the signer. AES is usually drawn or uploaded.
- Qualified electronic signature (QES) – QES is created on an appropriate creation device. Usually, this type of signature is drawn or uploaded and comes with an e-signing certificate for extra security.
E signatures can be used in the following situations in Jamaica.
- Commercial agreements – This may include invoices, purchase orders, sales agreements, non-disclosure agreements, and service agreements between two entities.
- HR documents – This includes onboarding paperwork, employment contracts, temporary employment contracts, benefits paperwork, and non-disclosure agreements.
- Consumer agreements – This includes terms and service agreements, invoices, order confirmations, retail accounts, and licensing agreements.
- Home sales or other transactions – This includes a leasing agreement, transfer of a home or real estate property. Most of the time, a qualified electronic signature is required in this situation.
- Insurance policies – This includes auto insurance, health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, and any supplemental policies. A qualified electronic signature is also required in this situation.
Basically, for most general business agreements, a standard electronic signature is deemed appropriate. However, as we mentioned earlier, certain documents cannot be executed via e-signatures.
Times when electronic signatures aren’t appropriate
Electronic signatures may not be suitable when there are explicit requirements in place, affirming that a wet-ink signature is necessary. Below is a list of documents that might need a handwritten signature:
- Marriage contracts
- Some property transfers and purchases
- Notarized documents
- Employee termination notices
- Wills or inheritance contracts
Do you need specific software to use electronic signatures in Jamaica?
While, from a legal perspective, you do not need specific software to use e-signatures, sensitive, and high-value transactions must be accompanied by quality e-signatures. Electronic signature software tool offer:
- Secure ways to associate or link the signatory to the information contained in a document, including IP address recording, name, physical address, email, etc.,
- Document integrity and the capacity to fast detect any alterations to the content.
- Non-repudiation – guarantee that no one can deny the legitimacy of the electronic signature even years later.
The evidential weight that is synonymous with electronic signature software brings more trust and confidence to the signing process irrespective of the applicable jurisdiction.
Can you use eSign Genie software to sign documents in Jamaica?
Yes, eSign Genie software complies with e signature laws in Jamaica; hence, you can use it to conduct nearly any form of personal and business affairs. With eSign Genie, you can type, upload, or draw your signature to a contract effortlessly.
That said, the most notable advantage of using electronic signature software like eSign Genie is that it minimizes the time you spend creating and executing contracts. You can create new contracts, and proposals fast, and have them signed in minutes, eventually streamlining your business processes.