Despite federal and state laws allowing electronic signatures for online vehicle transactions in most states, many dealers stick to pen and paper rather than risk legal liability, industry experts say.
The federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, or ESIGN, enacted in 2000, permits e-contracting of auto sales. And 47 states and Washington, D.C., have Uniform Electronic Transaction Act laws, giving e-signatures legal authority, said Michael Charapp, a dealer lawyer with Charapp & Weiss in McLean, Va.
But in California, where the most vehicles are sold in the U.S., laws are murky for dealers.
California's 1999 transaction act law allows digital signatures for transactions, but it exempted vehicle sales and lease contracts, meaning a wet signature is required in those cases, said Brian Maas, president of the California New Car Dealers Association.