New Legal Framework for E-Signatures Coming Soon to the European Union

The use and acceptance of electronic signatures are becoming more commonplace around the globe. One estimate has the number of transactions using electronic signatures growing from 210 million in 2014 to 700 million in 2017. In our practice, we are seeing more companies implement electronic signature solutions in their commercial contracting practices and procedures.

Given this increased usage of electronic signatures, we think it’s a good time to remind our readers that a new legal framework for electronic signatures is set to take effect in the European Union on July 1.

Adopted almost two years ago on July 23, 2014, the regulation (910/2014/EU) titled “Regulation on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market” (the eIDAS regulation) introduces a new framework for electronic signatures, seals, time stamps, and electronic documents. The eIDAS regulation replaces the Directive on Electronic Signatures (1999/93/EC) (the Directive).

The Directive caused issues in the European Union because each member state interpreted and implemented the law in its own way, leading to different electronic signature rules among EU nations. Thus, the eIDAS regulation is designed to establish a uniform framework to recognize electronic signatures, electronic seals, and identification among EU member states through the creation of electronic trust services for the European internal market. The eIDAs regulation defines the requirements for legally valid and mutually recognized electronic signatures (advanced and qualified), electronic seals, electronic time stamps, electronic delivery services, website authentication, and electronic documents.

As of July 1, the Directive and any EU member state laws that conflict with the eIDAS regulation will be replaced or modified. If you are among the many companies that incorporate electronic signatures into commercial contracting practices, remember that this new EU framework is just a month away from taking effect and be sure to brush up on the details.

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