The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has affected the world economy in a drastic manner. The risk of transmission of the virus has put a halt on all processes which require individuals to come together and work in close proximity, thereby disrupting businesses globally. The current situation of falling GDP and growing unemployment begs the question of how business processes can be made safer and losses mitigated in the event of such a pandemic.
A major feature of many processes is the need or the potential for contact with other human beings and objects. Such contact is inevitable in many situations. For example, a doctor has to be in close proximity to patients and touch them to examine them. However, it can be avoided in many situations. For example, the pandemic has compelled educational institutions to conduct classes and examinations virtually. Both teachers and students, after going through a learning curve, have adapted themselves to the new system.
Similarly, many businesses have had to invest in developing online stores when their brick-and-mortar shops lost footfall due to the lockdown, and restaurants have had to focus on delivery and takeaway for revenue rather than dine-in customers. Thus, the process of selling has undergone a major transformation in many businesses.
Another business process which has been rapidly shifting to digitization is that of notarization. Notarization refers to the process of making a document legal or official by getting it attested or certified by Notary Public. A notary public ensures that the creation of the document is free from fraud. They ascertain the identities of the signing parties and ensure that they are signing the document out of free will, and not because of duress or coercion. Thus, they act as impartial witnesses to the signing of the documents.
The process of notarization is also undergoing a massive change, and this change has been expedited by the pandemic even more. Remote online notarization (RON) technology is enabling notary and signing parties to get together and perform their respect tasks without engaging in physical face-to-face meetings. This is radically different from traditional notarization in which notary and the signing parties all had to be present at the same place at the time of the creation of the document. At present, at least 26 states in the US have created a framework for RON closings.
Typically, RON involves a RON platform which has document processing and audio video conferencing capabilities. The notary and the signing parties log onto the RON platform at the same time. The signing parties have to clear a knowledge-based identity quiz. This identity authentication generally involves answering questions about one’s life, credit and financial history. If the signing parties fail to answer these questions, they will not be allowed to proceed with the notarization process.
Next, the signing parties submit digital copies of their ID related documents to the notary. The notary examines the IDs for authenticity. The signing parties are also required to hold up their IDs on the webcam for the notary to see. The notary matches the information on the ID visible on the camera with the digital ID documents and compares the physical appearance of the signers with their photo IDs. After verifying the authenticity of the signing parties, the notary proceeds to the next steps.
The documents to be signed are uploaded on the RON platform, generally in a PDF format. The notary scrutinizes the documents and time-stamps them so that they cannot be altered in the future. During this process, the notary also communicates with the signers to ensure that they are aware of the contents of the documents, and are signing them willingly. The documents are signed digitally and the notary puts an electronic seal on the documents, signifying that these are legal or official documents. These digitally signed and stamped documents can be accessed by the signers at any time. The entire process of notarization, including the audiovisual communications between the parties is recorded and archived.
Real estate and mortgage lending are some sectors in which RON technology is seeing rapid adoption.
Benefits of RON Technology –
- Elimination of the risk of virus transmission – When notary and the signing parties do not have to be in physical proximity for the notarization of the documents, the chances of virus transmission are greatly reduced. Thus, RON is a safer method than traditional notarization as it requires parties to be present only remotely behind their computer screens with all their documents.
- Quicker processing time – Since RON does not require parties to go anywhere, all the parties save on time that would have gone into travelling to arrive at a common place. Furthermore, parties do not have to wait days or weeks to meet with the notary to sign documents.
- Optimum Utilization of resources – RON technology simplifies the process of notarization and makes it more convenient for all parties. With the time and the resources saved, signers can focus on their core business processes.