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Signature requirements
The signature requirements pertain the legal or contractual requirements in order to make a legally effective declaration of intent or a legally binding contract.

Possibility to replace a specific formal requirement of making a binding declaration of intention

Since 2010, electronic signatures could be used in order to make a binding declaration. As a matter of principle, article 1366 of the Civil Code states that any electronic writing is considered to be equivalent to paper-based writings.

Thus, an electronic signature is equivalent to a written one and it can effectively replace a legally effective written form.

However, decree n° 2017-1416, published on the September 28th, 2017, relating to electronic signatures, states that only qualified signatures can be considered as a worthy proof similarly to written ones. 

According to Regulation eDIAS, a qualified signature is one that has been done under the supervision of a third-party, in general the electronic signature service provider, in accordance with Regulation (EU) 2016/679 published on the 27th of April 2016, on the protection of natural persons about the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, commonly called “GDPR”.

Two other types of electronic signatures are not considered as equivalent to a written one: 

  • Standard electronic signatures such as credit card codes, or written signature on an electronic device. They have a lower evidential weight since they cannot guarantee the identity of the signatory.
  • Advanced electronic signatures. They tend to be operated through a private key, such as smartphones; where the identity of the signatory is somehow guaranteed since most of the times it is required to upload an ID for further authentication. They are frequently used in many agreements. However, to guarantee the integrity of the agreement, the signature should be certified in accordance with Regulation eDIAS.

As for qualified signatures, they are generally used for agreements that require a specific formal requirement such as notarial deeds or public tenders.

Presence of any specific formal requirements to effectively conclude a loan agreement

Some specific formal requirements should be done in order to conclude a loan agreement.

According to article 1907 of the Civil Code, the interest rate should be indicated in the agreement. An absence of a written interest rate will lead to consider the agreement as non-valid.

As for consumer credits, some other requirements are found. The loan offer should be written on a paper or other sustainable medium in accordance with article L.313-4 of the Consumer Code (French “Code de la consummation”).

In order to bind the agreement or the offer, the customer should sign and date the agreement that only comes into effect after a period of 14 days after the signature. The customer can retract himself from the contract within those 14 days in accordance with article L.121-20-12 of the Consumer Code.

Process of conclusion of a contract by using a qualified electronic signature in practice

In practice, two conditions need to be satisfied in order to conclude a contract by using a qualified electronic signature:

  • The signatory’s identity should be certified by a third party or a certification service provider.
  • The signature key should be a USB or other qualified physical tokens handed to the signatory.

Certification service providers do require to be licensed by the National agency for computer systems’ security (“ANSSI”). The certified service providers include Yousign, Docusign France, Certeurope etc. The complete list is available here:

Legal consequences to a contract in case of not fulfilling formal requirements

As for the formal requirements mentioned above, the contract will not be valid. Article 1178 of the Civil Code states that if any formal or other legal requirements are not fulfilled, the contract will be considered null.

Usual practice of signing contractual agreements in the B2B sector


Usual practice of signing contractual agreements in the B2C sector

B2C contracts are signed in the written or the electronic form. However, there is a growing trend where a bigger portion of B2C contracts are signed with the electronic form since the latter offers many benefits. With reduced time and costs, better management of the different steps and a more precise date for the fixing of the retraction option deadline, many are favouring the electronic approach in B2C agreements such as bank account opening agreements.



© 2022, Racine Avocats. All rights reserved by Racine Avocats as author and the owner of the copyright in this chapter. Racine Avocats has granted to Multilaw non-exclusive worldwide license to use and include this chapter in this guide and to sublicense Lexis Nexis, a division of RELX Inc. and its affiliates certain rights to use and distribute this guide.

The information in this guide provides a general overview at the time of publication and is not intended to be a comprehensive review of all legal developments nor should it be taken as opinion or legal advice on the matters covered. It is for general information purposes only and readers should take legal advice from a Multilaw member firm.


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