Sign here please? Do I need a signature on my contract for it to be enforceable?

Here’s a question asked often – in the age of the digital signature, the so often ignored instruction ‘please scan and return’ and the numerous software packages for client signature management now available, do you still your customer to sign on the dotted line for it to be ‘legal’?

There’s a lawyer’s answer to this question – which starts with another question☹ of course!

What sort of contract document do you have?

Some contracts have to be signed as a deed – that means they need to be signed in certain special circumstances (for example, when they deal with land agreements), and some documents need to also be formally witnessed when signed ( for example, a will). In the main however, your contracts for goods and services should present neither of those problems for you as wedding suppliers,  but as always, it’s not just a straightforward Yes or No.

If you feel compelled to read more – or are looking for a solution to insomnia – you can read more about this here – in an article from the Law Society regarding the Law Commission report of 2019. The Law Commission was tasked with deciding if a digital signature was as good as a hand-written one for enforcement purposes – and for the vast majority of contracts in the wedding sector – the answer is a resounding YES.

However, I think there are some subtleties that are worth flagging – especially if you don’t have the jazzy software option – or your customers (if they are anything like mine…. I love you all really) aren’t that good at signing and scanning back the piece of paper you need to prove they accepted your T and C’s.

The most important rule is to show that all the terms of the contract were provided to the customer BEFORE they agreed to purchase. This is the question of whether your T and Cs are incorporated into the contract – we did a vlog about this some time ago so refresh your memories here – and as long as you can show that having received the terms, the customer gave an unequivocal YES to progressing with the deal, this should be enough to show they accepted your contract terms.

Two belt and braces tips for you:

  • If you don’t already, it’s worth having a term in your contract that say as something like

Verbal or email instructions by the Client to proceed will constitute an acceptance in full of these Terms and Conditions.

 You can hardly quibble with that, can you…..?

  • This is perfect for what you might call your bread and butter jobs, or  if you have a contract that is unusually high value or risk, or you have customers that you just have that feeling about ( you know the ones I mean …’this lot could be needy’…) then I would still suggest a signature and a scan back is worth insisting upon.

Obviously, if you normally see the customer before they decide to go ahead, getting them to add their signature and a date to the bottom of the terms of business to evidence acceptance is always best. But we know in the real world that’s not always possible – especially if you have immediate and tight deadlines.

So it’s always about balancing the commercial risk, and being practical in how you run your business.

Our templates do all this for you, so why not check them out too – it’s a reasonable price for taking away the stress and the hassle of doing it yourself, and knowing its been done well.