Signature legislation in Switzerland


 In Switzerland, the Federal law on certification services within the scope of the electronic signature (ZertES, SR 943.03) came into force on 1st January, 2005. This defines the conditions under which providers of certification services can be recognised on a voluntary basis, and regulates their activities in the field of electronic certificates. It also lays down the requirements that must be fulfilled by an electronic signature in order to achieve the same status as a hand-written signature. Additionally, it regulates the question of responsibility on the part of the certification service providers, approving bodies and the owners of signature keys. The Swiss Accreditation Authority ("Schweizerische Akkreditierungsstelle" or SAS) monitors the approving bodies for certification service providers.

A new article has been introduced into obligation law with this federal law (Art. 14 Para. 2bis OR). This makes the provision that even those contracts which by law must be made in writing can now be concluded electronically. For this purpose, they must be supplemented with an electronic signature belonging to the obligor that is based on a qualified certificate. The law also regulates the requirements that must be satisfied by the certification service provider in the field of electronic signatures who is seeking approval. In conclusion, the new Article 59a OR declares that the owner of the signature key is liable for any abuse of the key.

The Ordinance on certification services within the scope of the electronic signature (VZertES, SR 943.032) came into effect at the same time as the ZertES. In particular, it specifically stipulates the obligations under which acknowledged certification service provider are placed. The Federal Department of Communication ("Bundesamt für Kommunikation" or BAKOM) must enact the requisite technical and administrative regulations on the basis of this legislation.

The Ordinance on electronic transmission in administration processes (SR 182.021.2) came into force on 1st January, 2008. It regulates the conditions for electronic data input at the confederation's administrative authorities and for the electronic opening of dispositions issued by these authorities.

Finally, the new Ordinance on electronically transmitted data and information (ElDI-V) relating to value-added tax has been in effect since 1st November, 2007. A crucial prerequisite for the paperless exchange of data relevant to value-added tax is that the data must be signed electronically. Advanced electronic signatures are sufficient for this purpose.

The latest legal provisions are compatible with the legal regulations of the European Union.