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Are faxed contracts legally binding?
Simple question....complex answer?

 6:03 am on Mar 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

I have toured the internet a little and haven't found very definitive information on this.

I was simply trying to find out if clients sign and then fax an advertising contract back to me - is that legally binding? Or should I snail mail them the contract so that I can get a true signature?

Is the faxed signature good enough? or do I need the real deal?

The problem that I am ultimately having is that I really want their true signature on our contract. Currently, we are just accepting checks. So, the clients simply remit payment along with the advertising contract. Unfortunately, this life cycle is fairly long.

I was thinking that perhaps I could collect payment via PayPal and then email them our contract. They would have to pay online and then print out and sign the contract. They would then snail mail the contract back to me, or if a faxed copy of a contract is legally binding, they could fax it back to me. This would definitely cut down on the overall sales life cycle.

Any thoughts on how I can quickly collect payment and obtain a legally binding contract from clients?



 6:11 am on Mar 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

Best way to answer that is to do a google search on the title. Also look at the Electronic Signatures Act of 2000.

Best one of the bunch appears from Duke University.


 6:28 am on Mar 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

I fax the contract, accept the signature and the faxback and go to work. Then I Fed-Ex the hard copy, and have it Fed-Exed back.

My lawyer seems to think that faxed contracts are binding, but appreciates the hard copy. The thing is, is if two lawyers are in the same room, you will get two different answers. They make their living litigating, not accepting terms like "legal" and "binding."

What has been happening most often is that I outline the work for hire and theirlegal team formulates the contract. They usually fax it first, accept signatures then Fed-Ex hard copies back to me. If 3 days pass and there are no hard copies lawyers get nervous.

If there is an element of distrust involved, you should probably look elsewhere for clients.

NDAs and Exclusivity agreements are treated much the same way. Faxed copies seem to work as expedient "working" agreements, but lawyers like hard copies. If I sign electrically, I use PGP, on the advice of a lawyer.



 9:59 am on Mar 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

We try to be very careful here about giving anything remotely sounding like legal advice. The best advice is to read some of the edu sites, and online legal resources about contracts. There really is a wealth of info about the topic of online contracts out there.


 10:10 am on Mar 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

Talk to a lawyer, for a reasonable fee one will advise you on the proper course of action

I'd let you talk to mine, but he's not reasonable. He does have good cigar connections though.
<disclaimer> I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on PC </disclaimer>

I tried to edit my post, but it was TOO old. Geriatric in 4 hours even.



 10:21 am on Mar 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

In the UK any method where offer and acceptance can be proven, is the basis of a contract.

The problem with fax and other digital communication is that they can be altered digitally and are therefore difficult to prove authenticity.

When I worked as a purchasing manager we drew up a separate electronic exchange contract which specified which forms of communication were acceptable and detailing how disputes would be resolved. This covered EDI, E-Mail and Fax. All our long term suppliers were expected to sign this.

Although drafted by the corporate lawyers, I doubt it would have proved all that useful against a determined challenge.

All of this was 4-5 years ago - I haven't kept track of recent changes - but I wouldn't trust a fax only contract to protect me much if the other party became difficult.

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