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Is a contract still legal and binding if it was received via fax?

4:47 pm on May 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Let's say I type up a contract and print it out.
I then sign this contract.
I then fax it over to a client.
They sign it, fax it back to me, and keep it for themselves.

I'd end up with a contract where both of our signatures have gone through the fax machine.
The client ends up with a contract that has my signature via the fax machine, and his via a pen.

Are both of our contracts equally legal and binding?

10:35 pm on May 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

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You should ask your attorney, as this almost certainly depends on what country you and the other party are in, and perhaps what state in the U.S.

You may be trying to solve a problem that you don't need to solve, though. I've had contracts that have been signed "in counterpart". Each party signs one copy of the same document. No document exists where both signatures are on the the same page. If you sign in counterpart, you can each mail your originally-signed counterpart on the same day, without having to wait for the other party to receive the signed contract and then sign it. There may need to be some language added to the agreement to permit this, as contracts I have signed this way have had some language in the agreement about it.

Again, ask an attorney, as I ain't one, and free advice - even if rendered by a friendly attorney, is worth what you pay for it.

5:40 am on May 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

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In Texas, we still have a law on our books that is a the handshake law...two individuals can agree to terms, shake hands, and it is a legal and binding contract in a court of law. From that perspective, yes, you agreed and they agreed, so it is a legal and binding contract, both parties should have to adhere to morally. On the off hand, contracts do get signed via faxes, but then they also have a notary public to make things legal and binding as well. You would probably have to talk to an attorney for the laws of your state to find out for sure though.
8:58 pm on May 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Remember even a verbal contract is legal and binding, but the problem is proving what was said, which is always the problem with contracts. Words and phrases in a contract can have so many subtle meanings and interpretations that it will always require a contract law attorney to set it straight if someone is bound and determined to get out of it or cheat you.

My feeling is that a contract no matter how carefully written will protect you from someone intent on violating the agreement or bound and determined to cheat you somehow. If I sense I am about to get in business with someone like this will usually walk and if I trust the person than a decent contract drafted by an attorney will typically do the trick. So for me faxing or not faxing it not really the issue. The issue is can I trust this person, do we have a good rapport and will the fax be good enough to stand up as basic proof of our agreement in case of a dispute.


11:09 pm on May 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

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It depends entirely where you are in the world.

In the UK, the contract is the agreement, written, faxed or neither - the format matters only in that it is evidence to support the cotract. People often fall foul by signing a written contract, then making 'verbal changes' - but provided they are agreed by both parties (and hopefully witnessed!), those changes become part of the contract.

In this case, in the UK, my guess is that it would be found to be hard for either side to dispute.

But I'm not a lawyer, etc., etc.


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