Electronic signatures - are they really valid?
The short answer: absolutely!
In most European countries, a contract is concluded by offer and acceptance. This can be verbal, on paper or electronically via, for example, the internet or e-mail, as long as the parties show that they agree with the content of the agreement. From then on, an agreement is legally valid.
Once everyone agrees to the agreement, it is binding and the parties must abide by its contents. When signatories express their agreement with a digital signature (also known as an electronic signature) from Stiply, a legally binding and therefore legally valid agreement is created.
Different types of electronic signatures
From Europe, three different levels are described. These levels are defined and elaborated in the eIDAS regulation.
This regulation distinguishes three types of digital signatures:
- The simple electronic signature (SES);
- The advanced electronic signature (AES);
- The qualified electronic signature (QES).
In short, the degree of identity verification, also known as authentication, and the assurance of integrity of the document determines the signature level used.
Just as legally valid as a written signature
The 'ordinary' electronic signature (SES) is in principle just as legally valid as a signature made with ink. However, it is important here that sufficient care is taken around the identification of a signatory.
The law states in Article 3:15a of the Civil Code:
"An electronic signature has the same legal effects as a handwritten signature, if the method used thereby for authentication is sufficiently reliable, considering the purpose for which the electronic data was used and all other circumstances of the case."
Authentication is an important part of creating a digital signature. In Stiply's signing solution, various authentication methods are possible in addition to signing via just a mail address. Read more about the various authentication methods Stiply offers to support a legally valid digital signature.
"The rule of thumb is: the more important the contract or document, the better the authentication in the digital signature should be "
Evidential value of documents with a digital signature
So an electronic document with a digital signature is legally valid and parties must comply with its contents. But what if a dispute arises and you end up in court?
In that case, you can submit the digitally signed document combined with the evidence document to the court as evidence. The judge will almost always consider this evidence in his judgement. In the vast majority of disputes, the issue is about what is in the agreement, not whether there is an agreement at all. With a legally valid agreement from Stiply, you will be fine.
When does probative value come into play?
Evidential value comes into play when the other party says: "I have never seen this document and never signed it". Indeed, in these (rare) cases, you may have to prove that the agreement was indeed signed by the counterparty.
Therefore, it is important that you do a proper authentication check when signing a contract digitally. This will provide more evidential value.
The more important the contract the better the authentication.
In such a situation, the probative value of your electronically signed document depends on how the signer identified himself online. The court will therefore determine afterwards whether the identity has been sufficiently established, relative to the importance of the contract.
Want to experience how it works?
Start your free 14-day trial now and test away!
You will have sent your first document within 5 minutes.