Classification of Law
Belgium's legal system is a mixture of Roman civil law and Anglo-American common law systems. Civil law operates in areas such as family relations, property, succession, contract, and criminal law, while statutes and principles of common law origin are evident in such areas as constitutional law, procedure, corporations law, taxation, insurance, labour relations, banking and currency. Overall, civil law prevails and Belgium is regarded as having essentially a civil law system.
Civil law systems are based on concepts derived from old Roman law, distinguishable by their reliance on having a comprehensive set of rules and principles codified and easily accessible to both citizens and legal professionals. Codified laws are regularly revised to reflect the current environment, and have stronger emphasis in civil law countries than any precedent set by earlier court cases. Civil law countries cover more than 65% of the world’s legal system, including the majority of continental Europe, Central and South America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
eSignature Legality Summary
Under Belgian law, a written signature is not necessarily required for a valid contract - contracts are generally valid if legally competent parties reach an agreement, whether they agree verbally, electronically or in a physical paper document (this is known in Belgium as the ‘principle of consent’) Article 25.1 of the EU Regulation No 910/2014 of 23 July 2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market and repealing Directive 1999/93/EC (the “eIDAS Regulation”), which is directly applicable in Belgium specifically confirms that contracts cannot be denied enforceability merely because they are concluded electronically. To prove a valid contract, parties sometimes have to present evidence in court. Leading digital transaction management solutions can provide electronic records that are admissible in evidence under Article 1322 of the Belgian Civil Code and Article 25 of the eIDAS Regulation, to support the existence, authenticity and valid acceptance of a contract. Even where Belgian law requires that an agreement be entered into in writing and, or, signed by the parties, unless such requirement is mandatory, the parties may depart from it and agree to rely on an electronic signature. Belgian law treats a QES like a handwritten signature, which is required by law for the signature of certain documents.
In addition, Regulation (EU) No 910/2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market (the “eIDAS Regulation”) came into force on 1 July 2016. The eIDAS Regulation repealed and replaced the e-Signatures Directive (1999/93/EC) and is directly applicable in the 28 member countries of the European Union.
The eIDAS Regulation is technology neutral and defines three types of electronic signature (SES, AES, QES). Article 25(1) provides that an electronic signature shall not be denied legal effect and admissibility as evidence in legal proceedings solely on the grounds that it is in an electronic form or does not meet the requirements of a QES. Articles 25(2) and (3) give a QES the same legal effect as a handwritten signature and ensure that a QES recognized in one Member State of the EU is also recognized in other Member States. Finally, Recital 49 allows national law to set requirements regarding which type of electronic signature may be required in which circumstances.
Use Cases for Standard Electronic Signature (SES)
Use cases where an SES is typically appropriate include:
- commercial agreements between corporate entities, including NDAs, procurement documents, sales agreements
- consumer agreements, including new retail account opening documents
- ordinary rental and lease agreements.
Use Cases for Other Types of Electronic Signature (e.g. Digital Signature, AES, QES)
Use cases where an electronic signature other than SES may be required include:
- QES (using electronic identity card) – employment contracts (Article 3bis of the Employment Contracts Act of 3 July 1978)
- QES – certain corporate documents, such as assignment of nominative shares, stocks or bonds when recorded or relevant registries (Article 504, Belgium Company Code)
- QES – signature of certain forms, including tax returns and applications, filed with public authorities
- QES – consumer credit contracts
- contracts that create or transfer rights in real estate, (except for lease contracts, which one should be able to sign validly via any form of electronic signature subject to proper contractual evidentiary rules;leases) (Article XII.16 of the Economic Law Code)
- contracts requiring by law the involvement of courts, public authorities or professions exercising public authority (i.e., public/authentic deeds, notably entered into before a notary);
- contracts of suretyship granted and oninvolving collateral securities furnished by persons acting for purposes outside their trade, business or profession; and (Article XII.16 of the Economic Law Code)
- contracts governed by family law or by the law of succession (e.g.,, such as matrimonial contracts, etc.); anddeeds of adoption and pre-divorce agreements
Use Cases That Are Not Typically Appropriate for Electronic Signatures or Digital Transaction Management
Use cases that are specifically barred from digital or electronic processes or that include explicit requirements, such as handwritten (e.g. wet ink) signatures or formal notarial process that are not usually compatible with electronic signatures or digital transaction management.
- author rights’ transfers or licenses subscribed by the original rights’ holder
 A QES is a specific digital signature implementation that has met the particular specifications of a government, including using a secure signature creation device, and been certified as ‘qualified’ by either that government or a party contracted by that government.
Local Technology Standards
As a Tiered eSignature Legal Model country, Belgium supports the concept of a QES (Qualified Electronic Signature), requiring independent accreditation for those signatures by an approved certification body. While QES is only legally required for limited types of transactions, as previously discussed, Belgium as a member of the European Union, follows ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) standards to define the technical requirements for a QES. In compliance with the eIDAS Regulation, Belgium maintains a publicly accessible list of supervisory bodies for qualified certificate providers together with other countries in the European Union.
DISCLAIMER: The information on this site is for general information purposes only and is not intended to serve as legal advice. Laws governing electronic signature may change quickly, so DocuSign cannot guarantee that all the information on this site is current or correct. Should you have specific legal questions about any of the information on this site, you should consult with a licensed attorney in your area.
Last updated: November 01, 2019