Italy is one of the first countries that granted recognition to electronic signatures and gave its legal status. The electronic signatures have been accepted by the citizen of Italy and enjoyed its use rather than using conventional ink or pen-based signatures.

Electronic Signature in Italy

Approval of Electronic Signatures in Italy

By the time when the European Union decided the approval of the electronic signatures in 2006, Italy already made the necessary legislation for its implementation all on its own. However, after the directions came from the European Union, Italy made several changes to its laws related to Electronic Signatures.

For the simplification of the rules and regulations of electronic signatures, modifications have been made in legislation in the years 2002.

However, recently further evolution to the changes in the laws and legislation of electronic signatures comes to halt because of the recent Digital Administration Code (DAC) which was introduced in the year 2006 in the entire European Union.

The DAC system is offering the new version of the legislation for the electronic signatures and documents along with its legal weight in the system as it outlines the requirements that an electronic document should meet as per the laws of Italy for eligibility of electronic signatures.

Types of Electronic Signatures under Laws of Italy

There are a total of three different types of signatures allowed in Italy as per DAC.

  1. The Simple Electronic Signatures (SES) which is a type of data that appears in electronic form logically attached or associated with other data in electronic form and is acting as an authenticated method for the E-data.
  2. The Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES) is a kind of signature having the following features.
  • QES may be exclusive to the specific signatory.
  • The signatory can be identified through QES.
  • QES is controlled or created through a gadget having rights with signatory only.
  • QES is often linked to the data being signed in a way that any change in electronic data can be easily detected.
  1. The Digital Signature which is a kind of electronic signature being created through the use of Public Key Cryptography (PKC). The digital signature is using a certificate that is based on digital ID. The digital ID is only provided by a specific certification authority or trust service provider. This is the reason when an individual is signing a document online is being traced easily and authenticated as well.
  2. Advanced electronic signature (AES). This is a type of electronic signature that is generated through the use of graph metric signature systems together with token devices.

What are the general Use Cases of E-signatures?

The specifications on where and when to use e-signatures are solely the decision of the states allowing E-signatures since this is not stipulated in the EU regulations.

To that effect, Italy allows only DES, AES, and QES to be used in matters relating to judicial proceedings.

Agreements that have a public connotation, as well as those that need the approval of notary public, can only use QES and DES.

AES, DES, and QES  are acceptable e-signatures when dealing with private commercial transactions.

Banks and private companies can implement e-signature processes to necessitate online banking and e-commerce transactions provided they abide by the set EU regulations.

With the emergence of video platforms for trading and banking services, Fintech companies can get QES through a certificate authority to their clients or still use an AES.

The use of e-signatures is greatly encouraged in the public administration with the adoption of personal digital identities. Wet ink/handwritten signatures have not been completely wiped out as they are still acceptable and in practice.

The local Companies’ Registrar now requires every management and control bodies’ member to have an e-signature in order to be able to complete fillings.

Italy allows corporate books to be digitized to allow e-signatures.

It is now possible and easier for financial institutions to conduct Know Your Customer (KYC) processes using video platforms provided the customers have a valid QES.

What type of e-signature is most used in Italy?

As much as there are several e-signature forms in Italy, AES and QES are the majorly used e-signatures.

The Qualified electronic signature and the Advanced Electronic signature allow signing in CAdES (.p7m format) and the PAdES (PDF format). Their granting can be through a software application or a smart card.

The use of Simple Electronic Signatures (SES)

The following are cases where SES is used in Italy.

  1. The SES can be used in commercial agreements happening among two individuals or entities comprising of items such as sales agreement, service agreement, distribution agreement, non-disclosure agreement, procurement agreement, order acknowledgment, and purchase order, etc.
  2. SES can also be used in HR documents e.g. privacy notes, employment contracts, NDAs, and invention agreements, etc.
  3. SES can also be used for software licensing agreements.
  4. SES can be used for intangible property transfers e.g. patents and copyright works.
  5. SES can be used for intellectual property licensing, copyrights, and consumer agreements such as sale terms, etc.

What Limitations on the Use of E-signatures Are There In Italy?

Notably, the only acceptable e-signatures in the Companies’ Registrar and public authorities in Italy is the CAdES when doing the public filling. However, PAdES e-signature is commonly available and used online signing software platform. There is a need to, therefore, evaluate the implementation of e-signatures.

E-signatures are validly acceptable in online banking and e-commerce trading. However, the e-signatures validity is time-bound or rather restricted to a few platforms making them less reliable.

In the wake of Covid-19 restricting public meetings, e-signatures would come in handy. However, the notary public in Italy demands that the signatory must be present in-person to sign invalidating the use of e-signatures.