France has recognized electronic signatures (or “eSignatures”) as legally valid since 2000. The passage of eIDAS in 2016 enabled France and other EU countries to use eSignature in cross-border agreements without the need for a resource-intensive validation process.
Under French law, a contract is considered valid as long as legally competent parties agree to its terms, even in the absence of a signature. Thus, agreements may be considered legal and binding whether they are executed verbally, electronically, or using a physical paper document.
French Civil Code confirms that contract validity cannot be denied simply because it is executed electronically.
eSignature laws were standardized across the European Union in 2016 with the passage of eIDAS regulations (EU Regulation No. 910/2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market).
eIDAS defines three classes of eSignature:
- Simple electronic signatures (SES)
- Advanced electronic signatures (AES)
- Qualified electronic signatures (QES)
SES include any form of electronic signal associated with a natural person, including scanned or typed signatures. AES include data that is uniquely linked to the signer. QES are granted the same status as handwritten signatures, but they carry strict certification requirements.
Common eSignature use cases
Standard electronic signatures (SES) are legally valid and appropriate for most business and legal transactions in France. Common use cases include:
- HR documents such as employment contracts and employee onboarding paperwork
- Commercial agreements including NDAs, sales agreements, and procurement documents
- Consumer agreements including new retail accounts
- Residential lease agreements and commercial lease agreements of less than 12 years
- Health insurance agreements
- Intangible property agreements including intellectual property assignments, non-exclusive patents, and copyrights
Use cases where eSignature is not appropriate
Despite broad acceptance of eSignatures, certain documents require a handwritten signature or formal notification via physical means in France. These include:
- Family law documents such as wedding contracts, adoption contracts, and acts related to inheritance law
- Private deeds governed by family law and the law of succession
- Private deeds related to real or personal surety
- Certain HR documents, including benefit agreements and termination of employment
- Assignment of shares relating to certain types of corporations
In addition, documents that require notarization must have a physical signature. These include mortgage contracts, contracts to purchase or transfer real property, and commercial leases that exceed 12 years.
Technology standards in France
The requirements for digital signature technology vary significantly between countries. France follows a tiered eSignature model under eIDAS regulations, which includes three classes of electronic signatures. The most secure—Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES)—require independent accreditation by an approved certification body.
As a member of the EU, France follows standards established by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), among others, to define the technical requirements for a QES. Each individual EU country maintains its own publicly accessible list of governing bodies approved to convey the appropriate certification.
The information on this site is for general reference and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be considered legal advice, nor should it be relied upon in any decision making process. Laws pertaining to electronic signatures vary by jurisdiction and may change quickly. Conga cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information on this site. Please consult with a licensed attorney, or other qualified counsel, for answers to any specific questions related to the use or validity of electronic signatures.
Last updated: 08/02/2021