Overview of electronic signature law and its legality in Ireland

Ireland

Electronic signatures have been legally recognized in Ireland since the Electronic Commerce Act 2000. This was reinforced by the eIDAS Regulation which was passed on July 1, 2016. This regulation states that eSignatures cannot be held legally inadmissible simply because they are in electronic format.

Electronic signatures are available for Irish citizens to use in business transactions as well. However, Irish business startups and service providers have been slower to adopt eSignatures and recognize the time and money it can save them.

Note: Using electronic signature software like PandaDoc will help you shorten your sales cycle and close deals faster.

An overview of Irish law

Common Law systems

Like the United States, New Zealand, and India, Ireland operates under a common law legal model. Common law systems are based on legal precedents that have been established by judicial courts.

Here is an overview of common law systems:

  • A body of unwritten laws based on judicial precedents;
  • Drawn from the opinions and interpretations of judicial authorities;
  • Judicial and court decisions are seen as binding;
  • Most things are allowed unless legally prohibited.

What is the difference between Common and Civil Law systems?

Many countries, like France and Sweden, operate under Civil Law systems.

There are several key differences between Civil and Common law systems, as outlined below:

  • Civil Law systems are based primarily on codified statutes.
  • Common Law systems are primarily based on published judicial opinions and interpretations.
  • In Civil Law countries, judges often take on the role of an “investigator” and often operate more like lawyers.
  • In Common Law countries, judges act more like a “referee” and have a greater influence over the outcome of a case.

Common Law Countries:

  • Ireland
  • The United States
  • England
  • India
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • New Zealand

Civil Law Countries:

  • The Netherlands
  • Sweden
  • China
  • Japan
  • Germany
  • France
  • Spain

What is the electronic signature law in Ireland?

Electronic signature legality

Ireland has been a member of the European Union since 1973. All EU member states are required to acknowledge digital signatures as legally valid. English law even states that a recipient typing their name is sufficient for signature requirements.

However, in spite of these recent legal changes, many Irish citizens still lack confidence when it comes to electronic signatures. This will likely change as the use of eSignatures become more widespread and accepted in both business and legal settings.

The 3 levels of eSignature

Thanks to the Electronic Commerce Act, digital signatures are seen as just as valid as a handwritten signature.

However, eIDAS regulations do differentiate between three different levels of eSignatures:

  • Simple electronic signature (SES) – If someone types their name instead of drawing it, this would be an example of a simple eSignature.
  • Advanced electronic signature (AES) – An AES is a signature that is unique to the person signing the document. So if someone draws their eSignature, this would be considered an AES.
  • Qualified electronic signature (QES) – A QES is an electronic signature created on an appropriate creation device and that comes with a qualified certificate.

Note: Every time you use our software to sign a contract or proposal, we’ll send you an electronic certificate.

When are eSignatures appropriate? Are there exceptions?

Digital signatures are appropriate in most legal and business settings.

They can be used for:

  • Human resources documents – This includes employee contracts and onboarding paperwork.
  • Commercial agreements – This includes non-disclosure agreements and procurement contracts.
  • Consumers agreements – This refers to any exchange of goods or services.
  • Sales documents – This includes residential or commercial real estate transactions. It can also be used in other electronic transactions.

Note: When you send documents, you can create PDFs and access codes for added data protection.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule. In situations where a witness is required, qualified eSignatures may be mandatory. You create a qualified eSignature when you use a qualified electronic creation device and receive an electronic seal once you’re finished.

And a handwritten signature may be required for documents that need to be notarized. Handwritten signatures may also be required for signing wills, property transfers, affidavits, or court documents.

Can I use PandaDoc software to sign electronic forms in Ireland?

Yes, PandaDoc electronic signature software complies with the digital signature laws in Ireland. Our electronic signature software is ESIGN and UETA compliant. And we’ll even provide an electronic certificate with every document for situations when an advanced eSignature is required.