As a European Union (EU) Member State, Portugal 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.
The use of e-signatures and certificate-based digital signatures is common in Portugal, easing the contracting process in a digital environment. Qualified electronic signatures (QES) are regularly used for public procurement and various e-government services, however the use of QES is still evolving in the business community. Because of this, Portugal’s administrative courts are familiar with the laws regulating electronic signatures (e-signatures).
Next to the eIDAS Regulation, the key laws in Portugal that regulate the use of e-signatures include:
The general rule in Portugal is that contracts may be concluded electronically, and such contracts will not be deprived of legal effectiveness or validity on account of having been concluded by electronic means. For documents signed using a QES, the court will regard the statements contained within the document as confessions of the signatory unless there is evidence that the QES was forged. Documents signed using non-qualified electronic signatures do not automatically carry any special probative value and their evidentiary value will be assessed by the court. However, use of non-qualified e-signatures as a means of: (i) electronic identification; (ii) demonstration of integrity; (iii) correction of data origin; or (iv) evidencing the moment of the electronic document may have such force provided such means is adopted by the parties under a valid agreement on the probative value or accepted by the person to which it is opposed.
Unless otherwise required by law, a person cannot be forced to contract electronically and the option to use a traditional handwritten signature should always be available.
In Portugal, all citizens are issued a Cartão do Cidadão (national electronic ID card) which includes a qualified digital certificate. Portugal has also implemented Chave Móvel Digital (mobile eID solution) which also includes a qualified digital certificate. The Professional Attributes Certification System allows public servants and directors to associate their professional, corporate or public attributes with their personal national eID card or their Chave Móvel Digital (mobile eID solution), allowing these public servants to sign documents in their public capacity using their personal qualified digital certificate to create a QES.
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 QTSP providers for Portugal is available at https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/tl-browser/#/tl/PT.
Transacting with public sector entities
In Portugal, only State trust service providers recognized by the Portuguese State Electronic Certification System may provide trust services to the government entities and to the services and bodies of the Public Administration. Additionally, Portuguese law mandates use of a QES within the scope of public procurement proceedings and in a variety of e-government services. Public servants and directors who associate their public attributes with the QES included in their eID card or mobile eID solution, may sign documents in their “public capacity” using a personal QES.
Use cases that generally require a traditional signature
The following contracts are excluded from the general principle of admissibility of electronic contracts and therefore require the use of a handwritten signature:
For contracts that must be executed before a notary, there are certain formalities in Portugal regarding document archiving that are not compatible with the execution of contracts by electronic means.
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