Electronic signature legality in the Netherlands

Electronic signatures have been legally recognized in The Netherlands since 2003. These regulations were standardized across Europe in 2016 with the passing of the eIDAS Regulation (Electronic Identification and Authentication and Trust Services).

Further reading

According to Dutch law, contracts are valid if both legal parties can come to an agreement. This is true whether the agreement is verbal, written, or electronically produced.

Specifically, Article 3:15a Dutch civil code states that contracts cannot be denied because they are agreed to electronically.

To prove that a contract is valid, both parties must appear in court and present evidence to make their case.

This can be difficult with verbal agreements and electronic agreements that were produced over email. Electronic signature solutions can be used to sign electronic records and are admissible in court due to Article 152(1) Dutch Civil Procedure Act.

Civil Law systems

The Netherlands operates under a Civil Law system, which is a comprehensive system that is easily accessible to all citizens. Civil Law systems are based on a written constitution that supports certain rights and duties.

Roughly 60% of the world’s legal systems are Civil Law systems.

An overview of Civil Law systems:

  • An orderly system favoring cooperation and order.
  • Originates from Roman law.
  • The system is adaptable and avoids excessive detail.
  • Legislative action is the only binding legal action.
  • There is room available for the judiciary to adjust certain rules as seen fit.

The eIDAS Regulation

The eIDAS Regulation took effect on July 1, 2016. This established a consistent legal framework across the entire European Union regarding electronic signatures.

This regulation defines three different types of electronic signatures:

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

What is a QES?

A qualified electronic signature comes with a qualified certificate and is legally valid. Companies offering this must be listed as Trusted Service Provider in the Netherlands.

According to Article 25(2) and (3), a QES has the same legal effect as that of a handwritten signature.

However, according to Article 25(1) of the eIDAS Regulation, electronic signatures cannot be held inadmissible in court simply for failing to meet the guidelines of QES.

Read more: What are types of electronic signatures and which one should you use?

If a QES is legally recognized in one Member State of the EU it must be recognized in all Member States.

Though Recital 49 allows national law to decide which type of electronic signature is required in any given circumstance.

More on eSignature law find here.