eSignatures are widely recognised as legally binding in the world. Learn more about eSignature legality across various countries from this guide.
As a member state of the European Union, Germany follows eIDAS, the legal framework that recognizes eSignatures as legally valid in the EU.
eIDAS applied to Germany in 2016 and states that “An electronic signature shall not be denied legal effect and admissibility as evidence in legal proceedings solely on the grounds that it is in an electronic form or that it does not meet the requirements for qualified electronic signatures.” Following the eIDAS regulation, eSignatures are now legally valid in all EU member states.
Regulation (EU) No 910/2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market (the “eIDAS Regulation”)
The eIDAS regulation defines three types of eSignature (SES, AES, QES) and is a new regulation on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the European Single Market. It establishes a legal framework for people, companies (in particular small to mid-size enterprises) and public administrations to safely access services and execute transactions digitally across all the EU member states.
eIDAS entered into force on 17 September 2014 and applied from 1 July 2016. It repealed and replaced the Electronic Signatures Directive 1999/93/EC, a European Union directive on the use of eSignatures in electronic contracts within the EU.
A standard electronic signature (SES) is the existence of electronic data logically connected to other electronic data (e.g. a document), which is used by the signatory of the electronic data for signature of the document. Many electronic tools, including passwords, PIN codes and scanned signatures can be regarded as a SES.
An advanced electronic signature (AES) must ensure that signatures are uniquely connected to and capable of identifying the signatory. It has to be created using electronic signature creation data that the signatory can, with a high level of confidence, use under their sole control.
A qualified electronic signature (QES) is a stricter form of AES and the only signature type given the same legal value as handwritten signatures. It is an advanced electronic signature with a qualified digital certificate that has been created by a qualified signature creation device (QSCD). The QSCD has to be issued by a qualified EU Trust Service Provider (TSP) on the European Union Trust List (EUTL.)
The law does not exclude specific types of agreements. However, certain types of agreements such as wills, court documents, land titles, may still require written, paper communications.