A stylus above a tablet. Illustrative photo.
A stylus above a tablet. Illustrative photo. (JEAN-CHRISTOPHE BOURDILLAT / RADIO FRANCE)

Commercial contracts, hiring contracts or real estate contracts. Despite containment, life goes on in part. Unfortunately, postal exchanges have slowed down. Fortunately, there is the electronic signature.

Contrary to popular belief, the electronic signature is not signing on a computer or smartphone screen, or even adding your signature on a PDF file. This is a digital handwritten signature and has almost no legal value. The “real” electronic signature consists in authenticating a document digitally in order to guarantee the integrity of the document and the identity of the signatories. This requires the use of encryption technology.

To digitally sign a rental contract or even a real estate purchase and this has legal value, you have to go through a trusted third party online. There are several such as DocuSign, UniverSign or the French start-up YouSign. The procedure is somewhat like an online purchase, with authentication by secret code via SMS.

The market is booming. Activity would be up 400%, according to YouSign.

Since the beginning of April, it is even possible to conclude a notarial deed electronically without going to a notary, since the studies are closed. This is authorized by a decree published in the Official Journal on April 4. For now, the authorization is only temporary until June.

The electronic signature has been legal in France for twenty years, and defined by the European regulation eIDAS, but it is a practice however still not very widespread. We will see if confinement contributes to the development of this use and if it will continue after deconfinement.


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