As a European Union (EU) Member State, Italy 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 Italy, the use of electronic signatures and certificate-based digital signatures is widespread in both the public and private sectors. The increased digitization of e-commerce as well as the functions of Italian public authorities are helping expand the use of e-signatures for a variety of electronic transactions.
Next to eIDAS, the primary legislation that governs electronic signatures in Italy is the codice dell'amministrazione digitale or the Digital Administration Code (CAD). Although the CAD mainly intended to regulate public administrations, some of its provisions, including those on electronic signatures and electronic documents, are also applicable to individuals and businesses. In addition to the CAD and the eIDAS Regulation, other regulations governing electronic signatures in Italy include:
The CAD largely refers to the types of electronic signatures provided by the eIDAS Regulation. However, the CAD also introduces the concept of a “Digital Signature” which is a type of qualified electronic signature (QES) based on a specific technological solution known as a double cryptographic key. A Digital Signature is cryptographically bound to the document to help manifest and verify the origin and integrity of the electronic document. This format requires the use of asymmetric cryptography such as public key infrastructure (PKI) that is managed by regulated qualified trust service providers.
The CAD also provides for another form of electronic signature which involves the use of an Italian citizen’s Public Digital Identity (SPID). Specifically, an Italian citizen is able to use their SPID to be identified and “sign” a document with private or public service providers within the SPID framework. This type of signature is viewed as equivalent to a QES.
In Italy, QES (including Digital Signatures), electronic signatures using an Italian citizen’s SPID and Advanced Electronic Signatures (AdES) are referred to as “strong” electronic signatures due to the enhanced level of trust and security they ensure. These strong electronic signatures are considered to have the same legal effect as a handwritten signature.
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 Italian QTSP providers is available at: https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/tl-browser/#/tl/IT.
Transacting with public sector entities
The CAD, as a piece of legislation aimed at digitizing and simplifying relations with public administrations, is primarily addressed to public administrations. Hence, all the provisions on electronic signatures included in the CAD directly apply to the public sector. The CAD provides a limited exclusion in relation to specific public activities. In particular, the CAD does not apply to the exercise of public order and security, defense and national security, judicial and economic-financial police and electoral consultations, as well as to emergency communications and alerts in the field of civil protection.
Additionally, when the law requires that public procurement contracts need to be executed with a notary deed, this can only be done in electronic form.
Use cases that require the written form
The Italian Civil Code also contains a number of provisions that require certain contracts to be concluded in written form. Further industry-specific regulations, such as in the financial services sector, may also require the written form. If an agreement is required to be concluded in written form, it can be executed using one of the strong electronic signatures. However, if a contract requiring the written form is not executed with a “strong” electronic signature, then the court will freely assess the suitability of the electronic signature to meet the written form requirement based on the security and integrity of the electronic signature. Additionally, if the written form is not required by law, the parties can choose whether to use an electronic signature as well as which type of electronic signature to use to conclude a contract.
Italian law may also require that certain contracts be executed in the form of “public deeds” which provide specific formalities for their conclusion that require the involvement of a public official or a notary. In these cases, the parties, and when necessary witnesses, may sign the document through a simple electronic signature. However, the contract will only be valid once the public official or notary executes the contract with his/her digital signature.
Use cases that generally require a traditional signature
Provided required formalities are met, Italian law does not explicitly specify any documents or agreements that cannot be concluded electronically. Additionally, Italian law does not specify any processes or workflows that cannot be replicated electronically.
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