How do electronic signatures stand up in court?

According to eIDAS they are legally binding, but how various European countries handle electronic signing in court proceedings varies. Our new report gives you an overview.

With important contracts and documents, it’s often important for both parties to know that what has been agreed is valid. When parties meet face to face, identity of the signer can be easily checked.

In many cases, documents are sent by email for the other party to sign. 

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Going all digital also with signatures has recently gained popularity, however this opens for questions regarding the legal aspects of electronic signatures. Especially when it’s a matter of contracts and agreements of high value or impact, it’s important to know that digitally signed documents are legally binding, and should there be a disagreement, the documents can be used as an evidence in court or even enforced.

In the European Union, eIDAS (electronic IDentification, Authentication and trust Services) is the act that defines the legal role of electronic signatures. The regulation knows 3 levels of electronic signatures: simple or basic electronic signatures (SES), advanced electronic signatures (AES) and qualified electronic signatures (QES).

A simple signature is, as the name suggests, often just a simple signature such as a scribble on a screen. An advanced electronic signature however, often leverages a trusted digital identity, an eID. This type of signing is gaining popularity, as eIDs are commonly being used to access services, such as banking and filing taxes. 

How do European countries handle AES in court proceedings? This varies from country to country. Signicat commissioned law firm Bird & Bird to produce a report that focuses on the legal aspects of AES, and how various countries in Europe handle these in practice: for example as evidence in court, and how they can be enforced.

The countries covered in this report are Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Germany, Netherlands and Belgium.

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