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Classification of Law

Civil Law

Iceland'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.

eSignature Legality Summary

Under Icelandic 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. 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 Icelandic law (Article 44 of the Icelandic Act on Civil Procedure No. 91/1991), to support the existence, authenticity and valid acceptance of a contract.

Use Cases for Standard Electronic Signature (SES)

Use cases where an SES is typically appropriate include:

  • HR documents, such as non-disclosure agreements, employee invention agreements, privacy notices, benefits paperwork and other new employee onboarding processes, except termination notices
  • commercial agreements between corporate entities, including non-disclosure agreements, purchase orders, order acknowledgements, invoices, other procurement documents, sales agreements, distribution agreements, service agreements
  • consumer agreements, including new retail account opening documents, sales terms, services terms, software licenses, purchase orders, order confirmations, invoices, shipment documentation, user manuals, policies, but excluding consumer loan agreements
  • commercial lease agreements
  • software license agreements
  • licenses for intellectual property, including patent, copyright and trademark
  • transfers of intangible property transfers, such as patent and copyright assignments

Use Cases for Other Types of Electronic Signature (e.g. Digital Signature, AES[1], QES[2])

Use cases where an electronic signature other than SES may be required include:

  • QES - contracts to purchase or transfer real estate (Article 7 of Act 40/2002 on Real Estates) 
  • QES or handwritten - Residential Lease Agreements (Article 4 of the Icelandic Rent Act No 36/1994)
  • QES - employment agreements (based on Bargain Collective Agreements (implementing EU Directive 91/533/EBE, Act No 35/1985 etc.)
  • QES - termination of employment agreements (Article 1 of Icelandic Act No 19/1979 Respecting Labourers’ Right to Advance Notice of Termination of Employment etc.)
  • QES - wills (Article 40 of the Icelandic Inheritance Act No 8/1962) and several other applications and legal acts on the basis of that same Act
  • QES - marriage settlement or contracts (Article 80 of the Icelandic Act in Respect of Marriage No 31/1993)
  • QES - memorandum of association for companies, such as public limited companies (Article 3 of the Icelandic Act No 2/1995 on Public Limited Companies)
  • QES - request for a financial reorganization, composition with creditors or bankruptcy proceedings (Article 6 of Icelandic Bankruptcy Act No 21/1991), and certain other measures in relation to such proceedings such as filing of claims
  • QES - request for deprivation of legal competence (Article 8 of Act No 71/1997 on Legal Competence)
  • QES - subpoenas and defense statements in civil and criminal cases (Act No 91/1991 on Civil Procedure and Act No 77/2008 on Criminal Procedure)
  • QES - insurance contracts, notice of termination etc. (Article 15 of the Icelandic Insurance Contracts No 30/2004)
  • QES - import declarations (in certain instances), request for binding classifications opinion from the customs etc. (Icelandic Customs Act No 88/2005)
  • QES - tenancy agreements (Article 8 of the Icelandic Tenancy Act No 80/2004)
  • QES - Data Processing Agreements between controllers and processors (Article 13 of the Icelandic Data Processing Act No 90/2018)

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.

  • Formal notarization - real property transfer contracts and deeds
  • Formal notarization - residential lease agreements
  • Formal notarization - certain contracts associated with family law, including wills, and marriage contracts and contracts of inheritance
  • Formal notarization – articles of incorporation of a company with limited liability
  • Handwritten - employment contracts

[1] An AES is an “advanced electronic signature”, 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 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.

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

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