Electronic Signature Laws & Regulations - Ireland
As a European Union (EU) Member State, Ireland is governed by Regulation No. 910/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 July 2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market (eIDAS). For more information on eIDAS, please read the Electronic Signature Laws & Regulations in the EU.
In general, the use of electronic signatures is common in Ireland, easing contracting processes in a digital environment. However, the use of certificate-based digital signatures is still evolving, and the use of such signatures is not yet widespread.
Next to the eIDAS Regulation, the Electronic Commerce Act 2000 (the Act) is the main legal instrument regulating electronic signatures in Ireland. The Act was passed to implement the eIDAS Regulation into Irish law and it provides for the legal recognition of electronic signatures in Irish law as well as the admissibility of electronic signatures as evidence before Irish courts.
Unique to Ireland, the Act sets out another form of electronic signature—the advanced electronic signature based on a qualified certificate. This form of electronic signature goes beyond the definition of an Advanced Electronic Signature (AdES) contained in the eIDAS Regulation but not quite as far as the definition of a qualified electronic signature (QES). The primary applicability of the advanced electronic signature based on a qualified certificate is for documents that are required to be signed and witnessed. Accordingly, if a document is required to be signed and witnessed using electronic signatures, then both the signatory and witness can sign using an advanced electronic signature based on a qualified certificate. Since this type of signature is unique to Irish law and not commonly used, it is reasonable to conclude that the use of a QES should be accepted by an Irish court for signatures that are required to be witnessed. Additionally, the Act does not preclude documents being executed in the presence of a witness by other means.
There is also an overarching requirement under the Act for the party who is receiving an electronic signature to consent to the use of an electronic signature. The meaning of “consent” is not specifically defined in the Act, thus, in the interest of certainty and to ensure that a particular electronic signature will be valid, it is recommended that the contract expressly include language stating that the parties consent to the use of electronic signatures. Also, it should be emphasized that no one can be obliged to contract electronically in Ireland and the option for a handwritten signature should always be open.
EU Member States have the obligation to establish, maintain and publish trusted lists of Qualified Trust Service Providers (QTSPs) and the qualified trust services provided by them. A QTSP certified in any EU Member State will be recognized as a QTSP by all other Member States. Accordingly, no EU Member State may question the qualified status once a QTSP has been added to the trusted list by the supervisory authority of another Member State. The list of Irish QTSP providers is available at: https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/tl-browser/#/tl/IE.
Transacting with public sector entities
According to the Act, when a particular form of electronic signature is required to be used with public or government entities, the electronic signature must meet any technical and procedural conditions imposed by the public body on its use. Additionally, certain Irish public registries such as the Companies Registration Office, the Property Registration Authority, and the Intellectual Property Office of Ireland require certain filings to be signed with handwritten signatures.
Use cases that generally require a traditional signature
The Act explicitly excludes the following categories of documents from being signed electronically:
- Wills, codicils or any other testamentary instruments
- Trusts (in most instances)
- Enduring powers of attorney
- Documents by which interest in real property may be created, acquired, disposed of or registered
- Affidavits or a statutory or sworn declaration
- Documents required by the rules, practices, or procedures of a court or tribunal
Additionally, Irish legislation can prescribe that other documents require handwritten signatures. However, as of April 2020, there is only one instance of this in an Irish Statutory Instrument. This statute requires that medical prescriptions issued by a medical practitioner registered in an EEA state (other than Ireland) use a handwritten signature if the medication is to be dispensed in Ireland.
Disclaimer: Information on this page is intended to help businesses understand the legal framework of electronic signatures. However, Adobe cannot provide legal advice. You should consult an attorney regarding your specific legal questions. Laws and regulations change frequently, and this information may not be current or accurate. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Adobe provides this material on an "as-is" basis. Adobe disclaims and makes no representation or warranty of any kind with respect to this material, express, implied or statutory, including representations, guarantees or warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, or accuracy.