In this day and age, technology is a great tool in setting up and running a business of any size and many types of business utilize a notary public’s service on a daily basis, whether that be internally or for their customer/client base. Some may find it inconvenient at times in our tech savvy world to coordinate a face to face meeting with a notary in the same physical location as the signer. Remote online notarization (RON) may be a good solution for those business who wish to invest in a system that will make notarial acts easier and more efficient.
Remote online notarization (RON) is a relatively new concept that allows a notary to certify a signature on document without being in the same physical location as the signer. A very specific and comprehensive process is required. Most states require that the signer provide adequate proof of their identity, the signer and notary consult in a video chat session with audio, and that the video and audio from the live session is stored for a certain period of time. Programs have been developed to simplify the RON process and some states require notaries to utilize one that is included on their list of approved software programs. In fact, Ohio requires a notary to disclose a description of the software that the individual plans to use on their initial application.[i]
Many states passed statutes authorizing RON in response to the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic; however, Ohio passed their statute in 2019. The state’s system requires a special licensure for an already established notary to perform notarial acts online. Except for depositions, a certified online notary public (ONP) can perform any notarial act as an online notarization.[ii] Notarial acts include administering oaths and affirmations, attesting documents, executing jurats, taking acknowledgements, and any other act approved under Ohio law and regulations.[iii] An ONP certified in Ohio may perform online notarization only if the ONP is a resident of Ohio and located within the geographical boundaries of Ohio at the time of the notarial act.[iv] Ohio law allows for RON transactions where the signer is located outside of the state[v], which makes RON convenient for Ohio businesses who serve clientele located out of state. In addition, Ohio law requires the ONP to store the entire video and audio. If at any point during the process the audio or visual parts of the live session cut out, the process must start over at the beginning. The ONP must also submit electronic journal entries for each notarial act to the Secretary of State who will store the entry for 10 years.[vi]
There are many positive and negative concerns when it comes to using RON. On one hand, RON allows a business to provide an efficient service to clientele across the country. On the other hand, reliance on technology is often frustrating unless properly maintained and the additional software requirements, licensures, and training required to become an online notary or set up a system to accommodate RON transactions dictates a financial investment. You must weigh your options to determine whether the investment required to set up a system for RON within your organization is worth the efficiency and ease it brings.