In the European Union, electronic signatures are given legal recognition by Regulation (EU) No 910/2014, more commonly referred to as the eIDAS Regulation. The eIDAS Regulation came into effect on July 1st, 2016, replacing the eSignature Directive (1999/93/EC). It is mandatory for all EU member states and takes precedence over any existing, conflicting national laws.
The eIDAS Regulation defines three types of electronic signatures:
The regulation defines a Standard Electronic Signature as “data in electronic form which is attached or logically associated with other data in electronic form and which is used by a signatory to sign.”
Simply put, it is an electronic form of a signature that a signer applies to a document as evidence of their intent to sign.
An Advanced Electronic Signature is a Standard Electronic Signature that meets the following requirements:
A Qualified Electronic Signature is an Advanced Electronic Signature that’s created by a qualified electronic signature creation device and is based on a qualified certificate for electronic signatures.
A qualified certificate is a certificate issued by a trust service provider (TSP) that is on the EU Trusted List (ETL). Each EU member state can add TSPs to the ETL by certifying that they meet the strict regulations outlined in the eIDAS Regulation.
The eIDAS Regulation states: “An electronic signature shall not be denied legal effect and admissibility as evidence in legal proceedings solely on the grounds that it is in an electronic form.”
The eIDAS Regulation does not specify when each type of electronic signature is required or prevented. These restrictions are regulated as part of national law by each EU member state. In practice, legal restrictions that prevent or require a type of electronic signature are extremely uncommon.
Therefore, Standard Electronic Signatures are legally valid for the overwhelming majority of signing transactions under EU law.