More than 25 U.S. insurance companies, banks, auditing firms, mortgage providers, software developers and trade associations have joined together to develop voluntary, technology-neutral guidelines for presenting, signing, managing and delivering electronic records and signatures.The project, called SPeRS (Standards and Procedures for electronic Records and Signatures), aims to provide guidelines on a variety of issues that have challenged companies designing electronic document presentation and signature processes.

Questions to be addressed include how to explain signatures to customers, how to provide important information effectively using hyperlinks and other electronic techniques, and how to establish intent to sign as well as identity.

"The federal e-sign law-as well as the state version UETA-is very well written," says Al Jackson, vice president of compliance and government issues for Principal Financial Group, Des Moines, Iowa, and chairman of the SPeRS drafting committee. "It's written very broadly. But because of the broad scope, there are number of ways to comply with the law. And lacking a comprehensive way to do it, it's very difficult to come up with a common experience for the customer or a common experience for insurance industry participants."

SPeRS, which operates a Web site at www.spers.org, plans to release its guidelines by no later than the first quarter of 2003.

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