Overview of electronic signature law and its legality in France

France

France has legally recognized electronic signatures since 2000. Then eSignature laws were standardized across the European Union with the passing the eIDAS regulations. This means electronic signatures can be used in both business and legal settings.

Are electronic signatures legal in France?

Yes, according to French law, contracts are considered valid if both parties have agreed verbally, in writing, or electronically. And French law states that contracts cannot be denied validity simply because they are conducted electronically.

At times, it may be necessary for one or both parties to prove the validity of a contract in court. In these situations, contract management solutions like PandaDoc can be used to support the authenticity of a contract.

Understanding France’s legal system

France operates under a tiered legal model and it recognizes Qualified Electronic Signatures as legally valid. And French law states that handwritten signatures are not required for a contract or electronic document to be legally valid.

Civil Law systems

Like many other countries in the European Union, France uses a Civil Law system. In fact, Civil Law systems account for 60% of the legal systems worldwide. This comprehensive system is available to all citizens and is based on a codified set of statutes.

France’s legal system is based on a written constitution that upholds certain rights.

Here is an overview of what that entails:

  • Originating from Roman law;
  • Orderly and favors cooperation;
  • Legislation action is considered binding;
  • But the system is flexible and avoids too much rigidity;
  • Judicial action can adjust certain rules as necessary.

France, Austria, Portugal, Finland, and Poland also have Civil Law systems in place. The United States, Ireland, England, and Australia operate under Common Law systems.

Regulations affecting businesses in France

All regulations in France are set forth by the French Parliament and the French government often details the practical application of these regulations.

Here is a list of regulations that can affect how businesses and service providers operate in France:

  • Act No. 78-17: This passed on Jan. 6, 1978 as part of the Information Technology, Data Files, and Civil Liberties Act. It addresses data protection issues.
  • Act No. 94-665: This passed on Aug. 4, 1994 as part of the French Language Act. It states that all information must be communicated to consumers in French.
  • Act No. 2004-575: This passed on June 21, 2004. It addresses the provision of mandatory online information and the liability of hosting providers.
  • Act No. 2014-344: This passed on March 17, 2014. It implemented the Consumer Rights Directive, which is a guide for how ecommerce companies interact with consumers.
  • Decree No. 2017-1434: This passed on Sept. 29, 2017. It sets transparency guidelines for online platforms and marketplaces.
  • Decree No. 2017-1436: This passed on Sept. 29, 2017. It sets guidelines on how websites can use customer reviews.
  • French Consumers Code: This sets restrictions on marketing practices and enforces the mandatory information that businesses must provide to consumers.
  • French Civil Code: This sets provisions regarding electronic forms and contracts, eSignatures, and general contract liability.
  • Telecommunications and Posts Code: This sets provisions regarding email marketing.
  • French Commercial and Civil Code: This is mostly for businesses in the B2B space and sets guidelines in regards to unfair competition rules.
  • Intellectual Property Code: This sets legislative and regulatory provisions in regards to trademarks and copyrights.

The 3 Types of eSignatures

The eIDAS regulations established 3 different types of electronic signatures:

  • Standard Electronic Signatures (SES);
  • Advanced Electronic Signatures (AES);
  • Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES).

A qualified electronic signature comes with a qualified certificate and is legally valid. According to French law, a QES is just as legally valid as a handwritten signature.

However, eSignatures can’t be considered inadmissible simply for failing to meet the standards of a QES.

When is an SES accepted?

An SES is acceptable for the following types of contracts and electronic documents:

  • HR documents;
  • Commercial agreements;
  • Consumer agreements;
  • Real estate transactions;
  • Health insurance agreements;
  • Non-exclusive patents or copyrights.

However, a handwritten signature may be required for documents that need to be notarized, employee termination notices, and certain property transfers.

Can PandaDoc software be used in France?

Yes, PandaDoc electronic signature solution is compatible with eIDAS and digital signature laws in France. Our software is ESIGN and UETA compliant and you can use it to draw, type, or upload your signature to contracts and proposals. This will allow you to negotiate and finalize business deals faster.