U.S. House and Senate lawmakers have, despite differences and many doubts, agreed on the wording of a bill that will make digitally signed online contracts legally binding. President Clinton has promised to sign the bill and it could pass this next week.
On March 1, 2001, contracts entered into by email and signed using public/private key encryption, would have the same force of law as paper contracts. Electronic agreements will then have credibility they currently lack and significant “transactions costs” in e-business will be eliminated. Many types of contracts (court orders, cancellation of utilities or insurance, instructions for handling hazardous materials, etc.) will still have to been set on paper, however.