View Full Version : online registrations

Michael Heather
January 29th, 2003, 12:56 AM
This is an extension of the email discussion that has been going on amongst the USMS Board of Directors and others.

The question is whether or not USMS should accept online registrations in addition to the paper ones we traditionally have utilized. At this point the online option being only for re registering swimmers, since we already have a signature on file.

There was some discussion on the relative merits of this being a LMSC vs. National progam, money collection, timeliness of card issuance, credit card acceptance, and others.

You all have a fine time tearing this subject apart and going off on wild tangents. It's what makes this country great.

January 29th, 2003, 10:33 AM
~~ At this point the online option being only for re registering swimmers, since we already have a signature on file. ~~

I imagine that's operative only until we make a change to the waiver.

Kevin in MD
January 29th, 2003, 10:51 AM
E signatures are now accepted as legal. Providing the proper electronic verification methods are used.

That would have to be hashed out with the insurance underwriter.

Brad Biddle
January 29th, 2003, 02:06 PM
This is a topic that I've thought about far too much. My 2 cents:

* The law in the U.S. on this point is clear: electronic signatures can be legally binding, and something as simple as a click on an "I accept" button can be deemed a signature. The applicable statute is the federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) (15 USC 7001-7031), except in states which have enacted the Uniform Electronic transactions Act (UETA), in which case the state version of UETA controls. In either case, the key legal rules are the same:

"...a signature [or] contract ... may not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely because it is in electronic form; and ... a contract ... may not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely because an electronic signature or electronic record was used in its formation." 15 USC 7001(a)(1)

"'electronic signature' means an electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract ... and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record." 15 USC 7006(5)

E-SIGN adds some "consent" requirements that apply in consumer transactions when a "law requires that information relating to a transaction ... be provided or made available to a consumer in writing." Not sure if this would even apply to USMS transactions (perhaps not) but USMS could err on the side of caution and jump through the hoops spelled out at 15 USC 7001(c)(1)(A)-(D). The E-SIGN consent requirements would satisfy the very minimal consent requirements found in UETA.

Bottom line: as a theoretical matter, there is no obstacle whatsoever to forming electronic contracts under U.S. law. (Internationally this gets much more complicated, but presumably this won't be relevant to USMS.) There are dozens of U.S. cases that support the proposition that electronic contracts are valid and enforceable.

* Life gets a bit more complex at the practical implementation level. The two big issues seem to be (1) authenticating the identity of the person with whom you are interacting electronically (the "on the Internet no one knows you're a dog" problem, for those familiar w/ the New Yorker cartoon); and (2) jumping through proper contract formation hoops -- and being able to prove later that you did.

On the authentication point, people for years have been positing that public key cryptography-based "digital signatures," certified by third party "certification authorities," would be the solution -- but for a variety of good reasons this has never come to pass. What we're left with then, as a practial matter, is the "click-to-accept" approach to forming a contract and "signature." Compared to a paper signature (where one could do handwriting analysis, for example), it is difficult to prove that a particular "click" in fact was made by a particular individual. But USMS might decide this is a tolerable risk: users are likely to self-report accurate identity info (e.g., they will want to get their card in their name and at their address) , and it may be difficult for a user to argue that while they received all the benefits that flowed from the on-line registration, it was not in fact that user who clicked "I agree."

On the contract formation/proof point, it's important to remember that an electronic contract is still a contract -- i.e., the terms must be presented in a manner that makes clear that they are intended as a legally binding offer, and the user must affirmatively "manifest assent" to the terms. Also, data that proves that this occured must be stored in such a way that it can be used to convince a potentially skeptical judge, even many years in the future. These implementation details can be hard, and require careful attention, but shouldn't be showstoppers.

I think that an online registration system for USMS would likely be feasible.


(masters swimmer, adjunct prof of cyberlaw at ASU Law School, e-commerce attorney for Intel Corp., author of some exceeding dense and boring articles on this topic: see <http://bradbiddle.com/pubs.html>)

P.S. At one point I had connected with Patty Powis on this e-sig issue, but I dropped the ball and never followed through -- if any of the USMS org folks here think it would be worthwhile, let me know and I'll follow up with her.

January 29th, 2003, 03:29 PM
I'm glad to see that someone brought this issue up. I too had a conversation with Patty Powis (the "new" USMS legal counsel) on this topic and also dropped the ball when I realized that this issue was tied to the USMS database question (this is related to the authentication issue) and wasn't going to be resolved until late this year. Since my interest was to eliminate the signed waiver requirement for 2003 NE SCY Meet and various deadlines were not far off I moved on to other pressing issues.

It would be great if someone from the database project and/or USMS legal counsel would weigh in on this matter. I think they need to hear that this is an important issue to a lot key USMS volunteers.

E registration would make life easier for: registrars (this should be obvious and the new "permanent" id number is a step in the right direction) but also meet directors (it facilitates on-line registration and also could eliminate the requirement that we secure signed meet waivers at mini-meets).

Let's hope that something can be done about this soon (alas too late for 2003 NE SCY Championship but maybe in time for our 2003 NE SCM Championship at the year's end).

January 29th, 2003, 04:34 PM
Great to hear from you again Brad! This is exactly the type of information we've needed. It's one thing for me or other members of the Legal Counselors Committee to look up the relatively new E-sign and UETA statutes and hope they'll hold in our situation, but it's much better to have an expert on this issue.

Can you point me to a couple of the cases holding that E-sign and/or state UETA statutes do make electronic signatures valid? Also, it'd be great to bounce some ideas off of you for how we can accomplish electronic signature verification.

Can you contact me at my e-mail address, which is ppowis@aol.com?

Mr. Seltzer (sorry, I forget your first name) - having some certainty on the legal/insurance side will certainly help us move things along, but the e-mail discussion that led to this posting shows that we still have several logistical items to work out -- aside from legal issues -- before on-line registration is fully implemented. So please be patient, we are working on it.


Michael Collins
January 29th, 2003, 06:22 PM
USMS folks,

I also think it is a bad idea to have an exclusive contract for all online registration, as several teams or LMSC's may choose to use different companies for different reasons or features. I have used www.active.com for online registrations for Clinics and Camps and have been very happy with the service and features. However, I would not want to make it a requirement that everyone should have to use them. Until we do all registrations nationally, I think it should be an optional feature that some LMSC's may choose to use and others may not.

Michael Collins
Coaches Committee Chairman
United States Masters Swimming
949-574-3045 H
949-338-6682 M

-----Original Message-----
From: Laura Kessler [mailto:KESSLEL@ccf.org]
Sent: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 11:36 AM

We were required by USMS to use Verisign for all on-line meet registrations.
There were several problems with this Verisign. One of the many problems was that Verisign did not process ANY of the American Express charges. We figured out what had happened when we realized that we were missing over $4000 in entry fees. Months after the meet Verisign processed these transactions. When swimmers received their statement they either believed that they were charged twice or did not recognize the charge and refused payment. This has been frustrating and time-consuming to say the least for both us and the swimmers involved.

USMS needs to drop Verisign and find a competent firm to provide this service or allow the host to choose a company on its own.

>>> "Hill Carrow" <hcarrow@sportsproperties.com> 01/29/03 01:41PM >>>

I wouldn't make that out to be a typical problem that should present us from moving ahead positively on potential online registration. After all, my own charges from my long course nationals meet registration showed up over 4 months later on my bill and made me suspicious that there had been a duplicate charge. I also considered refusing to pay until I dug through all my prior credit card and check statements to assure myself that these were the original meet fees----just showing up incredibly late. I wasn't sure who should get the blame for that but I will say that was a first. Hill Pieter Cath <cath.p@worldnet.att.net> wrote:Michael:

There were processing delays with AMEX after the Nationals and when the charges for the meet showed up on peoples statements 5 questioned the charges and refused to pay.

We went after them. 3 payed, one is pending and one is refusing. We are now working with his local LMSC.

If you go to on-line registration this is a potential problem.

>Could you amplify that a bit on what happened and what we can do so
>that it does not happen again.
>At 7:41 PM -0500 1/28/03, Pieter Cath wrote:

>>Then we also have the problem that people refuse to pay the credit
>>card charge like what happened at LC nationals last year. They get a
>>number to enter a meet and then they don't pay.

Brad Biddle
January 29th, 2003, 07:35 PM
I've connected w/ Patty offline, but in case anyone out there is deeply interested in the legal stuff (my sympathies!), I tossed the list of cases I sent her up at <http://bradbiddle.com/cases.html>.


January 29th, 2003, 10:22 PM
We were the first to use Verisign for nationals last May in Hawaii. We had an excellent experience with them once we got the initial quirks worked out - (well Jim Matysek was the lucky one to have to deal with most of those quirk issues).
If my memory serves me correctly (which does not always occurs) we did not accept Amex or Discover because the fees were higher. This is an option when opening a merchant account, which is then reiterated when signing up with Verisign to process the charges. Amex is known for their higher rates and slower processing time (of course slower being about a week or so when compared to the other major credit card companies). Their rates are generally closer to 2.95%+ per transaction compared to low 2% or high 1% fees for the other companies. To us it wasn't worth it.
Also I highly recommend shopping around for the company you choose to set up a merchant account with - you do not have to go thru Verisign to do this. You want to do this because like most things in this wonderful capitalistic society you can NEGOTIATE various rates/fees etc.. We used Verisign as a middle man to process our online transactions, we also used it at the meet, because we didn't want to buy or rent an electronic terminal since no one uses the ole knucklebusters any longer, and when you ask the bank how to process the knucklebuster transactions they simply laugh at you and insinuate get into the 21st century!

January 31st, 2003, 12:52 PM
As mentioned previously, there is a data base subcommittee. The minutes of these meetings (conference calls) are posted on the website.

As far as I can remember (and I'm sure someone will correct me), we have only discussed on-line registration in terms of goals, but no details yet. My personal concept is that each LMSC will have the option to register its swimmers on line. The advantage would be that the data would go immediately to the national data base. Meet directors would have limited access to the data base to check registrations. Access for meet directors would be something like name and reg #, and limited personal data. The data base committee will consult with the "consumer", those who will use a certain feature, before finalizing any plans. A lot of time has been spent on privacy issues involved in a national data base. There will be different levels of access according to why that person is using the data base.

Registration through the national office does not seem practical to me at this time. Registration fees are different among LMSCs, some LMSCs accept team registration with LMSC registration and forward money to team/club. The paperwork and accounting seem overwhelming when you consider 42,000+ swimmers. If 2000 registrations came in close together, the time to print and mail the cards as well as remitting the money to the LMSCs would be very time consuming. How much would we have to increase the n.o. staff to do this?

I believe we will have on-line registration in the near future, but there is no way to create a time line at this time.
Betsy Durrant

July 18th, 2003, 10:37 AM
I will chime in with Bob Seltzer (a bit after the fact)... USMS needs to fix this problem with requiring waiver signatures for meet entries. We all signed waivers when we joined USMS. There's no reason for me to sign it again for a meet entry. In fact, it exposes potential liability if we screw up and someone doesn't sign the meet waiver, and then gets hurt. By requiring the meet waiver, we're saying that we expect to have more liability if there's a problem.

With the elimination of physical signatures for meet waivers, it makes online entries _much_ easier. Right now, the requirement of getting people to sign the paper when they show up makes electronic meet entries just not worth it right now.


October 23rd, 2004, 03:37 AM
I stumbled upon this thread by accident. When I read the entrants, I got confused. Is it about registration to memberhsip or to events. It sems that these are two very different issues. Would some one be about to clear this up for me. It is a very intersting question. Is the liablity to USMS different between meets, camps, clincs & memberships?

Betsy's pointis very good. I've worked for a national organization that had all of the memberhsips renewed at the end of the year. It was terrible, it almost killed us. I worked for a national organization that had floating membership. It was terrible, it almost killed us

Michael Heather
October 23rd, 2004, 11:21 AM
The answer to your first question is yes. Meaning that all concepts of registration are open to discussion at this time, but only meet entries have been actually processed online so far, so that is where the practical knowlege base exists. We are still trying to figure out how to handle a nationwide registration process. And will come up with something soon, so we can handle the glut of entries and registrations from the World Championships in 2006.