Czech Republic: Electronic signature in private law relations
At the end of 2016, an amendment to the legislative regulation primarily concerning electronic document signatures in the private sphere was implemented in the Czech Republic. Act No 297/2016 Coll., on trust services for electronic transactions (“the TSET Act“), which came into force in September last year, repeals the hitherto effective Act No 227/2000 Coll., on Electronic Signatures, and simultaneously harmonises the Czech legal system with Regulation (EU) No 910/2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market (“the eIDAS“).
According to the TSET Act as well as its explanatory memorandum, the attachment of a simple electronic signature to a document should be sufficient for transactions between persons in private-law relations to constitute an equivalent of a hand-written personal signature of the relevant person acting. That means that it is theoretically not necessary to provide the document with either an advanced electronic signature or a qualified electronic signature, although such signatures are, nevertheless, still required to document validity when acting with respect to public authorities. It is also not possible to use the basic electronic signature format in labour law relations, where a recognised electronic signature is still needed for electronic document versions to be valid.
The eIDAS defines the electronic signature format as “all data in electronic form which is attached to or logically associated with other data in electronic form and which is used by the signatory to sign”. Under prevailing interpretation, the simple electronic signature could, for example, be made up of a scanned personal signature or a biometric signature. Owing to the fact that the definition provided is an extensive one, its practical manifestations will have to be determined by the courts of the EU Member States and possibly also the European Court of Justice in the future.
While the new legislation decreases the requirements on electronic document signing in the private sector and allows for the use of any form of an electronic signature, it is still recommended that caution be exercised when attempting to construe its broad definition.