Classification of Law

Civil Law

Colombia'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.

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 world’s legal system, including the majority of continental Europe, Central and South America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

E-Signature Legality Summary

Law 527 of 1999, which regulates e-commerce and provides the basis for the existence and enforceability of electronic and digital signatures and electronic records (data messages). The following are the most relevant articles:

  • Article 2 defines a data message;
  • Article 2 defines a digital signature;
  • Article 6 states that any law that requires a written document will be complied with through a data message, if the information is available for later consultation;
  • Article 7 states that any law that requires a signature will be complied with through a signature that (a) uses a mechanism that allows for the identification of the initiator of a data message and his/her approval; and (b) uses a reliable mechanism to guarantee the aforementioned;
  • Article 10 states that data messages can be used as evidence in administrative and judicial procedures;
  • Article 28 provides digital signature enforceability requirements; and
  • Chapter III sets the applicable rules regarding digital signature certificates.

Decree 2364 of 2012 sets forth the distinction between an electronic signature and a digital signature (which is a specific type of electronic signature). The following are the most relevant provisions:

  • Article 1 defines an electronic signature;
  • Articles 3 and 4 recognize the enforceability of electronic signatures;
  • Article 4 sets electronic signature reliability requirements; and
  • Article 8 sets electronic signature security requirements.

Decree 491 of 2020 states that the administrative authorities can use digital signatures as well as handwritten, digitalized, and scanned signatures to sign decisions and other administrative documents.

Decree 806 of 2020 states that during judicial procedures, judges shall use digital means available to undertake such procedure, avoiding requesting any unnecessary formality such as the authentication of signatures or the use of handwritten signatures.

The Consejo Superior de la Judicatura, an authority that supervises and regulates judge’s activity, has issued several decisions instructing judges to use and allow the use of digital means, including electronic signatures.

Types of Electronic Signature

An electronic signature is any reliable and adequate method used to identify an individual regarding a data message, such as codes, passwords, biometric data, and cryptographic passwords.

For an electronic signature to be reliable and enforceable, the law requires that

  1. the signature allows for the identification of the signer and
  2. the mechanism used allows for the detection of any alteration made to the data message after the signature was included.

A digital signature is a numeric value that is added to a data message that, using a mathematical procedure and based on the password of the signer and the text of the message, allows for a determination that such value was obtained exclusively using the password of the signer and that the message has not been tampered with after such procedure.

Beyond the general requirement for electronic signatures, the digital signatures shall be verified through a digital certificate issued by an entity authorized for that purpose known as a certification entity.

Documents That May be Signed Electronically

The general rule is that any document that can be signed by hand can also be electronically signed. Typically, there are no specific formal requirements; any form of electronic signature that meets the definitions above may be used.

Case Law

The following case is an example of where a Colombian court addressed the use of electronic signatures:

  • Colombian Supreme Court. Decision issued on December 16, 2010. Rad. 2004-01074-01.

DISCLAIMER: The information on this site is for general information purposes only and is not intended to serve as legal advice. Laws governing the subject matter 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: August 30, 2021

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