Electronic signatures: are they valid and enforceable in Russia?

Are electronic signatures legally valid?

The following categories of electronic signature are recognised:

(1) Simple
(2) Enhanced encrypted and non-certified
(3) Enhanced encrypted and certified

Electronic signatures falling into category (3) ('enhanced encrypted and certified') are deemed to have value equal to a handwritten signature unless a specific law applicable to the particular document requires execution in paper form.

However, parties to a contract are free to agree that electronic signatures falling into categories (1) and (2) above shall be treated as valid and have equal status as a handwritten signature.

Such agreement should stipulate the method by which the electronic signature and identity of the signatory may be verified, and should set out details of any confidentiality obligations regarding encryption keys.

The following laws are relevant:

• Federal Law 'On electronic signature' 6 April 2011 No 63-FZ.
• Federal Law 'On information, information technologies and on protection of information' 27 July 2006 No 149-FZ.
• The Civil Code of the Russian Federation.
• Numerous by-laws.

Where a contract is governed by a foreign law and electronic signatures are valid under that foreign law, will local courts enforce an arbitration award determining a dispute arising under the contract?

Yes. The procedure for recognition and enforcement of arbitration awards is regulated by the New York Convention and the Arbitrazh Procedural Code of the Russian Federation. In accordance with these provisions, the Russian court is not entitled to reconsider the award on the merits. If the electronic signature is valid under the governing foreign law, the use of an electronic signature shall not constitute a basis on which to refuse enforcement. Russian law may limit the use of electronic signatures in certain contexts.

Are there any limitations on the use of electronic signatures?

Russian law may limit the use of electronic signatures in certain contexts.

Trade Advantage, November 2018, Hill Dickinson