Are Electronic Signatures Legally Binding in the European Union?

February 1, 2021

Over the past two decades, electronic signatures have grown in popularity with millions of people signing them around the world each year. Electronic signatures provide a fast and secure signing process for any business, organization, department, or project that comes with organized, built-in convenience. The main purpose is to facilitate an individual’s intent to agree to something and securely document it in a way that is easily accessible when needed.

One of the most popular questions surrounding electronic signatures is whether they are considered a legally binding contract. In most cases, an electronic signature can create a legal and binding contract that is enforceable and is used widely in the corporate world as well as any type of small business or large organization. In many cases, it is considered more secure and protected than paper contracts. 

In this post, we’ll review the type of e-signatures accepted in the EU and what makes an electronic signature legally binding in the European Union. 

3 Types of e-Signatures Accepted in the EU

There are several types of e-signatures that are acceptable under the Electronic Identification and Trust Services (eIDAS).

1. Electronic Signatures (ES)

Also referred to as a simple electronic signature, these can be used for a wide range of reasons including scanned manuscript signatures and website UI elements (including selected tick boxes and buttons that include the “I agree” text next to them). 

2. Advanced Electronic Signatures (AES) 

These are essential for business deals and parties to a contract that require trust and the utmost certainty that the signing process is tamper-proof. AES is based on unique identification and authentication of the signatory and allows for verification. 

3. Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES)

Qualified e-signatures offer long-term security and are based on a qualified certificate, uniquely identifying the signer. They are not commonly required in the European Union, however are used when foreign jurisdiction is involved or there is a necessity to notarize the document. 

Are Electronic Signatures Legally Binding In the EU?

Yes, eIDAS has made sure that any electronic signature is legally binding and recognized by European Union courts. Online transactions signed under eIDAS can’t be deprived of their legal effect because it’s submitted in an electronic form. However, the legitimacy of a document processed via a signature creator will depend on the type of signature used. 

In the EU, a QES has the same legal effect as a handwritten signature and is considered legally binding. 

Electronic Signatures vs. Digital Signatures: What Is the Difference? 

Electronic Signature: Defined under the eIDAS encompass “any 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.” Essentially, it is an electronic form of a signature that a signer can apply to a document as proof of their acceptance or approval.

Digital Signature: This type of electronic signature using a digital certification that is technically implemented through digital signatures developed by the European Technical Standards Institute (ETSI). XAdES, CAdES, PAdES, and ASic digital signatures are all compliant with eIDAS regulation and are considered legally binding in all EU member states. 

Are WaiverFile Electronic Signatures Legally Binding In the EU? 

WaiverFile ensures security and legality in every file. We make it easy to convert a file into a legally binding, signable document. You’ll be able to share it securely from any device within seconds. Our electronic signatures comply with all eIDAS regulations. WaiverFile’s electronic e-signature solution complies with the definition of an electronic signature under this act. 

Every document we provide automatically generates and stores a complete, time-stamped history of when the document is viewed, sent elsewhere, signed, printed or when there is a refusal to sign. This allows you to provide proof that the signatures are considered legally binding. 

Disclaimer: The content on this site is not legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established. To ensure your online consent form is legally binding based on your location, industry, and specific circumstances, consult a legal professional in your area.

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