Scope of Electronic Signatures in Germany
Germany operates under Civil Law adopted from Roman Law.
Per Sec. 125 and Sec. 126 of BGB, electronic signatures have equivalent credibility as wet ink signatures on electronic contracts or agreements. As a member of European Union, Germany complies with the eIDAS regulation for electronic signatures.
Germany created the legal framework, “The Act on Digital Signatures,” for electronic signatures, before the Electronic Signatures Directive 1999/93/EC and eIDAS (electronic Identification and Trust Services) regulation was enforced. This earlier German Law on electronic signatures helped other European Union member countries and the European Union advance their understanding of using e-signatures.
eIDAS Regulation and German Laws for Electronic Signatures
Currently, Germany regulates electronic signatures combining Sec. 125 & Sec.126 of BGB and eIDAS regulations.
As per the eIDAS regulation, the European Union recognises three types of e-signatures – Simple Electronic Signatures, Advanced Electronic Signatures and Qualified Electronic Signatures.
Generally, the requirements of electronic signatures to comply with German law include:
- Identifying the signatory with linked to e-signature validation data;
- Agreement by both parties of a contract to use electronic signatures; and
- Authentication capabilities of the resulting record of the electronic contract transaction to server as proof in Germany courts.
Considering eIDAS and the German-specific electronic signature laws, RSign, RMail e-signatures, and RForms are a valid form of legal electronic signature in Germany and standard use of these services fall within the Simple Electronic Signature and Advanced Electronic Signature qualification of the eIDAS regulations. These e-signature services provide a secured electronic signature platform to meet the statutory requirements of electronic signatures in Germany.
RSign, RMail, and RForms e-signatures return a robust forensic audit trail and use cryptography to logically associate and digitally seal the original document sent for e-signature with Internet forensics associated with each signer, the signed copy, and uniform timestamps of each step of the process. The RSign, RMail, and RForms cryptographic seals render the e-sign record with its certified electronic signature certificate and/or Registered Receipt™ email record, an authenticable proof record.
RSign has additional identity verification services (to meet the principles of Qualified Electronic Signatures) but these are not ordinarily needed for financial services, human resources, equipment leasing, sales, purchasing, real estate, property management, and other typical business agreements. Generally, a Qualified Electronic Signature is not needed, according to German law.
Are There any Exclusions for the Use of e-Signatures in Germany?
There are some exclusions to the use of e-signatures in Germany.
The government of Germany has declared guidelines to detail the legal structure that binds electronic transactions, electronic documents, and electronic signatures for businesses. The guidelines include the following exclusions:
- Notice of termination of an employment contract (Kündigung eines Arbeitsverhältnisses, section 623 BGB);
- Consumer loans (cf. Section 492 BGB);
- Issuance of a declaration of surety (Erteilung einer Bürgschaftserkärung, Section 766 BGB); and
- Issuance of a declaration of debt acknowledgement (Erteilung einer Schuldanerkenntniserklärung, Section 780 et seq. BGB).