The recognition of electronic signature in France is established byArticle 1367 of the Civil Code which states:
Amended by Ordinance No.2016-131 of February 10, 2016 – Art. 4
The necessary signature to the perfection of a legal act identifies its author. It expresses its consent to the obligations arising from this act. When it is affixed by a public officer, it confers authenticity on the act.
When it is electronic, it consists of the use of a reliable identification process to ensure its connection with the act to which it attaches itself. The reliability of this process is presumed, until proven otherwise, when the electronic signature is created, the identity of the insured signatory and the integrity of the guaranteed act, under conditions set by decree in the Council of State.
The civil code therefore gives us the minimum so that a digital process can be recognized as an electronic signature: the use of a reliable identification process guaranteeing its link with the act to which it attachesitself.
The reliability of this process is therefore presumed until proven otherwise when the conditions set by the Council of State are met, here they are:
Article 1 of Decree No. 2017-1416 of September 28, 2017 relating to electronic signature
The reliability of an electronic signature process is presumed, until proven otherwise, when it implements a qualified electronic signature.
A qualified electronic signature is an advanced electronic signature, in accordance with Article 26 of the aforementioned regulation and created using a qualified electronic signature creation device that meets the requirements of Article 29 of that regulation, based on a qualified electronic signature certificate that meets the requirements of section 28 of this regulation.
Let us sum up what is said in French law:
An electronic signature is the use of a reliable identification process to ensure its connection to the act to which it attaches itself. A qualified electronic signature as defined by eIDAS is deemed reliable until proven otherwise.
Qualified signature therefore has an advantage related to its main disadvantage: it reverses the burden of proof, it is up to the person challenging the act of proving that consent, or the act, is not in compliance. But the flip side of this indisputability is the cumbersome procedure for issuing, handing over and using the qualified certificate, which disqualifies qualified electronic signature in many exchanges where speed and flexibility are sought.
But what interests us here is the unqualified digital signature which can now be used in French law in all cases where qualified electronic signature is not required. That is, in the vast majority of cases.