How does eSignature work in the European Union? Is eSignature legal everywhere?
As an entrepreneur, you ask yourself this question because you want to internationalise your business. As an individual, you want to sign (or have someone sign) a document abroad, for example.
We answer your questions in this article. It’ll take just 5 minutes of your time! ⏱
eIDAS and the validity of eSignature
eSignature is a technical and legal process allowing individuals to give their consent and approval to digital documents.
It must meet certain criteria, the main ones being:
1️⃣ identification of the signatory,
2️⃣ proof of the signatory’s consent,
3️⃣ guarantee of the document’s integrity, ensuring that its content remains constant over time.
The European eIDAS (Electronic IDentification And Trust Services) Regulation, applicable throughout the European Union since 2016, defines the rules for using eSignature and the conditions necessary for its legal recognition.
It provides a common foundation for secure electronic interaction between citizens, businesses, and public authorities.
☝️ eIDAS was transcribed into French law in Articles 1366 and 1367 of the French civil code.
An eSignature isn’t simply an image. It is defined as “data in electronic form which is attached to or logically associated with other data in electronic form and which is used by the signatory to sign” (eIDAS Regulation).
Unlike a scanned signature, which represents a digital image of a handwritten signature and offers less legal protection than an eSignature!
Yousign in the European eIDAS Regulation
Yousign is an eSignature solution that allows users to sign electronically while meeting the requirements of the eIDAS regulation mentioned above.
- a recognised certification authority in France and Europe because it issues its own electronic certificates,
- included in the European Commission's list of Trusted Third Parties,
- eIDAS-certified by the ANSSI as a supplier and recognised at the European level.
🔒 Our certificates of conformity can be viewed here.
Legal value in the various European countries
1. How does it work in EU Member States?
Each EU country has transposed the eIDAS Regulation into its national law.
It is also responsible for identifying eIDAS-compliant trusted service providers and issuing a certification recognised throughout Europe.
As mentioned above, Yousign is included in the list of Trusted Third Parties certified by the European Commission.
Useful: refer to this article to learn more about the legal value of eSignature in the EU.
The European eIDAS regulation defines three types of electronic signature according to their level of security and signatory identification:
- the so-called simple signature: first stage of security and legal recognition of the signing of a document,
- the advanced signature: offers higher security levels because it must meet more demanding identity verification criteria,
- the qualified signature: this is the most advanced stage in terms of security; it complies with regulatory constraints in terms of verifying the signatory's identity and protecting the signature key.
2. Differences between countries?
eSignature applies to all trades and sectors.
Most routine documents – commercial contracts, employment contracts, and even property leases – can be signed electronically in the European Union.
Legal framework: Trust services act and § 125 and 126 of the German civil code.
Competent authorities: The federal office for information security (BSI) and the federal network agency for electricity, gas, telecommunications, post, and railway (BNetzA).
The following documents cannot be signed electronically:
- notarial instruments
- documents relating to family law and inheritance matters (such as inheritance contracts or marriage contracts),
- contracts for the acquisition or transfer of real property,
- the drafting of articles of association and the sale of shares in a limited liability company.
- the following handwritten documents:
- “Schuldschein” banking products,
- guarantee documents,
- temporary employment contracts, fixed-term employment contracts, and letters of termination.
Legal framework: Codice dell'Amministrazione Digitale (CAD) and legislative decree il Decreto n.179 (CAS 3.0) of 26 August 2016.
Competent authority : AgID (Agenzia per l'Italia Digitale).
Article 1350 of the Italian civil code limits the use of eSignature for some documents that require a notarial process or handwritten notes:
- Contracts for the purchase or transfer of real property or their amendments and agreement resolutions relating to disputes on the transfer of real property,
- Leases with a term of more than 9 years,
- Company asset transfer contracts and settlement of disputes relating to the transfer of these assets,
- Consumer credit contracts.
Legal framework: Articles 1366 and 1367 of the French civil code.
Competent authority: ANSSI is the reference body for eSignature.
👀 More details in our dedicated article.
Two categories of private agreements (Article 1175 of the French civil code):
- family law and inheritance,
- private surety bonds (such as private joint sureties, tangible property securities, or pledges).
All other official and private agreements are eligible for eSignature