Electronic Signature Laws & Regulations - France

Overview

Note:

As a European Union (EU) Member State, France 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 electronic signatures in electronic contracts is increasing in France, especially in the context of e-commerce. Certificate-based digital signatures, such as qualified electronic signatures (QES), are mainly reserved for specific regulated business activities such as those involving notaries, lawyers, banking institutions, and bailiffs, where the evidential nature of the signature has a significant importance.

The eIDAS Regulation impact under French law is the distinction between:

  1. e-administration where the qualified electronic signature is required and
  2. legal acts between private stakeholders where a simple electronic signature or an advanced electronic signature are generally sufficient.

Next to eIDAS, Chapter III of the French Civil Code is the main legal instrument regulating electronic signatures in France as well as the evaluation and certification of IT products, devices and systems used for creating electronic signatures.

Under the French Civil Code, an electronic document has the same evidentiary value as a paper document provided that:

  1. it clearly identifies the person from whom it originates (article 1366);
  2. it is established and stored in conditions which ensure its integrity (article 1366); and
  3. the electronic signature used consists in the use of a reliable identification process guaranteeing its link to the act to which it is attached (article 1367). 

Under French law, any type of electronic signature is admissible as evidence and shall be deemed reliable by a judge as long as it satisfies the above conditions as set forth in articles 1366 and 1367 of the French Civil Code. Those conditions can be fulfilled by the use of a reliable process of identification of the signatory which can certify the link between the agreement and the signature, and which certifies the integrity of the document.

Note:

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.

In France, the Agence nationale de la sécurité des systèmes d'information (ANSSI) publishes the Liste Nationale de Confiance as well as the Liste des produits et services qualifies.   


Special Considerations

French law does not specifically address storage or processing of electronic signature data outside of France. However, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is applicable in France.

Transacting with public sector entities

In France, there are not specific laws regulating use of electronic signatures with government entities. However, in practice and as stated above, QES are generally required for e-administration matters.

Use cases that require a QES

A qualified electronic signature (QES) is required for many e-administration transactions such as:

  1. The deed signed by a notary;
  2. Administration decisions
  3. Electronic signatures used in the context of public procurement
  4. Decisions ruled by the judicial and commercial courts 

Use cases that generally require a traditional signature

Although French law does not specify any documents or agreements that cannot be signed or executed electronically, there are some documents under French law that may need to be signed using a wet signature (or in the authentic format) such as:

  • Creating or transferring rights for immovable property, if the presence of a notary is required.
  • Family and inheritance law documents such as marriage certificates, wills, etc.
  • Personal and real guarantees, except when they are given by persons acting for purposes of trade, business or profession
Note:

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.

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