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Classification of Law

Civil Law - France

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.

eSignature Legality Summary

Under French law, contracts are generally valid if legally competent parties reach an agreement, whether they agree verbally, electronically or in a physical (e.g. paper) document (articles 1102, 1109, 1172, 1173, 1365 of the French Civil Code). The French Civil Code 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 Articles 1174 and 1366, 1367 of the French Civil Code, to support the existence, authenticity and valid acceptance of a contract.

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 The eIDAS Regulation repealed and replaced the e-Signatures Directive (1999/93/EC) and is directly applicable in the 28 Member States of the European Union.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 sufficient include:

  • HR Documents, such as Employment Contracts and other new employee onboarding processes
  • commercial agreements between corporate entities, including NDAs, procurement documents, sales agreements
  • consumer agreements, including new retail account opening documents
  • residential lease agreements, and commercial lease contracts not exceeding 12 years
  • intangible property agreements, including IP assignments and non-exclusive patent, copyright or other licenses
  • supplementary health insurance 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 include:.

  • Handwritten and paper - family related acts, including wedding contracts, acts of adoption, acts related to inheritance law
  • Paper - private deeds governed by family law and the law of succession (article 1175 FCC)
  • Paper - private deeds related to real or personal surety of a civil or commercial nature except those entered into by a person for their professional needs (article 1175 FCC)
  • Notarization - contracts of commercial lease exceeding 12 years, as well as any transaction subject to publication of landed property (article 4, Decree no. 55-22 and article 28, Decree no. 71-941)
  • Notarization - contracts to purchase or transfer real property (article 4, Decree no. 55-22 and article 28, Decree no. 71-941)
  • Notarization - contracts of mortgage (article 2416 FCC)
  • Handwritten and paper - human resource documents, including benefits agreements (article D2231-2 French Labour Code)
  • Formal notice via a registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt - termination of employment agreement (article L1232-6 French Labour Code)
  • Formal notice by a judicial officer (in French, “signification”) or deposit of the assignment to the corporation’s seat with an acknowledgement of deposit -assignments of shares relating to some types of corporations (article L221-14, L222-2, L223-17 French Commercial Code)

[1] An AES is an “advanced electronic signature” under Articles 3 and 26 of the eIDA Regulation, i.e. a type of electronic signature that meets the following requirements: (a) it is uniquely linked to the signatory; (b) it is capable of identifying the signatory; (c) it is created using means that are under the signatory’s sole control; and (d) it is linked to other electronic data in such a way that any alteration to the said data can be detected.

[2] A QES is a specific digital signature implementation that has met the particular specifications of Article 29 of eIDAS Regulation, including using a secure signature creation device, and a ‘qualified’ certificate complying with Article 28 eIDAS.

Local Technology Standards

As a Tiered eSignature Legal Model country, France supports the concept of a QES (Qualified Electronic Signature), requiring independent accreditation for those signatures by an approved certification body. France, as a member of the European Union, follows standards issued by ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute), among other European or international standardization organizations and bodies, to define the technical requirements for a QES. In compliance with the EU Regulation No. 910/2014 on Electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market, France maintains a publicly accessible list of supervisory bodies for qualified certificated 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