Washington state seeks repeal of Electronic Authorization Act

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eSignature and ePayment News and Trends

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Washington state's Electronic Authorization Act (EAA) was enacted in 1997 to facilitate commerce by means of reliable electronic messages, ensuring legal recognition of electronic signatures and minimizing the incidence of forged digital signatures and fraud in electronic commerce. The EAA established a definition of "electronic signature" (which differed substantially from that of the ESIGN Act) and a presumption of validity and limitations on liability for the use of a "digital signature."

In House Bill 1908, the Washington legislature is seeking to repeal the EAA, retaining only the definition of "digital signature" for use in other statutes after repeal. Additionally, by repealing the EAA, the bill seeks to remove conflict with Title 19 Section 360 of the Revised Code of Washington, enacted in 2015, which recognized the applicability of the ESIGN Act to federal and state transactions, including certain governmental transactions, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce relating to this state. RCW 19.360 authorized electronic dealings for governmental affairs and transactions and, for this purpose, adopted the ESIGN Act definition of "electronic signature." House Bill 1908 awaits the governor’s signature.

The judicial treatment of electronic signatures by courts in Washington State has varied a bit, but has moved steadily in the direction of recognizing ESIGN preemption in Washington. Taken as a whole, the current trend in Washington state law appears to recognize the application of the ESIGN Act to Washington state transactions and the enforceability of electronic signatures, but to also place a healthy amount of weight on the presence of convincing evidence of attribution as a precondition to enforcement, at least if the signature is disputed.