It has taken more than 13 years, but the European Union has finally introduced a cohesive electronic signature law its 28 member states can support. The EU hopes to have an e-signature regulation in place by July, according to Law Technology News. The new law would be comparable to the U.S. e-signature law.
The legal groundwork for a cross-border e-signature law was laid by a directive issued in 1999. Member countries were required to adopt the directive by 2001. However, each country adopted its own interpretation of the directive; there was a lack of interest from the commercial sector in adopting the model, Hugh Logue, a senior analyst at Outsell Inc., said in an interview with Law Technology News. The new European Electronic Identification and Trusted Services, which was passed in April and is now awaiting the final endorsement of the Council of Ministers in June, will remedy that situation.
Part of the reason the United States was able to adapt to the e-signature landscape more easily is because of its shared legal system, said Logue. In the EU, however, there are varying mindsets across the member nations; paper signatures are still not standardized across the EU, he said, because some countries require agreements to be witnessed by a notary while others accept verbal contracts. These types of differences make adopting a technical and legal standard an uphill battle, said Logue.
According to the article, e-signatures in Europe must include trust services such as time stamping, electronic seal, website authentication, legal admissibility, and electronic delivery. The EU regulations encompass digital signatures issued by a certificate authority as well as electronic signatures; they do not favor a specific technology.