Switzerland was among the first European nations to recognize electronic signatures. This was on Dec 19, 2003, when ZertES (Federal Law on E Signatures) came into effect. Under Swiss law, a wet-ink signature is not necessarily required to validate a contract. Instead, a contract becomes valid if legally competent parties come to an agreement, whether they agree electronically, verbally, or in a paper document (Article 11 Sec. 1 CO).
Now, without further ado, let first answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the eSign laws in Switzerland.
- Can I use electronic signatures for business in Switzerland? – Yes, you can use e signs to execute most of the business documents. (A list of exceptional documents that can’t be executed using e signatures can be found towards the end of this post).
- Are electronic signatures admissible in court in Switzerland? – Yes, you can present an electronic signature as proof or evidence of a contract in court.
- What’s the legal model of an electronic signature in Switzerland? – Switzerland’s legal model is usually a tiered one. Meaning, Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES) are deemed to be the most compelling type of e-signs. This doesn’t mean that other types of signatures aren’t court-admissible. But instead, they will need additional evidence to support them.
Types of e signatures in Switzerland and their requirements
Acting in geographical proximity of the European Union, it is not a shocker that ZertES is considered similar to eIDAS, especially when looking at the legal value and tiered structure. ZertES has multiple assurance levels, the uppermost being the Qualified Electronic Signature (QES) level.
These two electronic signature laws regulate the activities relating to electronic certification and specify the requirements for each type of e signs.
Standard Electronic Signatures (SES)
According to ZertES, SES is data found in an electronic format that is used to authenticate other data appearing in electronic form. Usually, there are no definite requirements for this e-sign type; however, the Swiss law accepts them if the signatures comply with XAdES, PAdES, and CAdES standards. This pronouncement was made due to the corresponding global agreements.
SES is widely used for:
- Consumer agreements (sales terms, purchase offers, invoices, services terms, order confirmations, etc.)
- HR documents (regular employment contracts, non-disclosure agreements, privacy notices, etc.)
- Commercial agreements between corporate entities (sales & distribution agreements, invoices, purchase offers, etc.) – EXCEPT loan agreements
- Intellectual property licenses (copyright, patent, trademark)
- Software license agreements
Advanced Electronic Signature (AES)
An AES (commonly referred to as a Fortgeschrittene Elektronische Signatur) is intended to curtail the risks associated with Standard Electronic Signature. To be considered valid, the AES must meet some specific requirements and:
- Uniquely linked to its signatory
- Be in a position to identify a signatory
- Contain only data that remains under the sole control of the signatory
- Be protected in a manner that is easy to trace any changes in the data
How do you satisfy the above requirements? One of the surest ways is to embrace a digital signature based on PKI. Usually, these are signatures linked to a digital certificate, and can only be received after authentication by the Certificate Authority. To have the digital certificate, you must provide all the essential documents which will verify your identity.
Using that approach of identity confirmation, you happen to be the only holder of the private key that is applied whenever you sign any contract with this certificate. More so, the system automatically checks whether they have been any subsequent changes made to the document.
Qualified Electronic Signature (QES)
Swiss e sign laws allow you to go beyond AES and use Qualified Electronic Signature (Qualifizierte Elektronische Signatur). This type of signature should be tied not only to the Digital Certificate but also presented with a secure signature creation device. Although ZertES lays out more stringent requirements for a qualified e sign, it can be presented as conclusive evidence in court. QES must have:
- A serial number the Digital Signature in question
- A pseudonym or full name of the Signatory
- The scope of the certificate
- Length of the validity period
- Signature verification
- Proof of recognition by certification services
- Value of transactions
- Unique signature key
- Exhaustive information about the issuer (State, name, QES) and the name of the foreign or national accreditation body, which accredited the issuer.
Certificate service providers that issue qualified certificates must undergo an audit via a conformity assessment organization appointed by the Schweizerische Akkreditierungsstelle.
Exceptions: List of documents which must be signed by hand in Switzerland:
- Inheritance contracts
- Real property transfer deeds and contracts
- Last will
- Articles of incorporation limited liability companies and stock companies
- Contracts of surety carried out with a natural person
Can I use Foxit eSign aka eSign Genie Signing software in Switzerland?
Yes. Foxit eSign aka eSign Genie complies with electronic signature laws of several countries, including Switzerland. With Foxit eSign aka eSign Genie, you can quickly draw, type, or upload your signature depending on the nature and purpose of your document.
Our eSigning software was designed to make paperwork more efficient and less time-consuming. Thus, when you use Foxit eSign aka eSign Genie, you are likely to automate your whole signing processes. You will also have the ability to monitor the status of your proposals and contracts, eventually helping you close deals faster.
Most notably, with our software, you can sign documents from any device – computer, tablet, or Smartphone. Sign up for a 14-day trial here, and see how Foxit eSign aka eSign Genie can help you streamline your business transactions in Switzerland.
DISCLAIMER: The information in this Foxit eSign aka eSign Genie blog is for general purposes only and is not meant for companies to use as legal advice. Please confer with your attorney for legal consultation for your location and specific use cases.