Signing on electronic devices is now common practice. Not only in the field of forwarding, but also at cash registers of supermarkets increasingly pads are available and make electronic signatures technically possible. But does this signature have the same legally binding effect as the old-fashioned signature on paper? And what does that mean for the electronic delivery receipt?
Basically, the following applies: For many contracts, for example, purchase contracts for movables or short-term leases, the freedom of form applies. This means that the contracts are also valid by proverbial handshake, by a verbal agreement or even if they were closed on an electronic device. If you buy a car or pay for goods from a department store, you can also submit the direct debit authorization by e-signature.
One drawback, however, is the electronic signature: electronic data is much easier to manipulate. This makes later proofs more difficult and in court electronic documents can be given less weight in case of dispute than documents on paper.
One must therefore distinguish between validity and provability of contracts: For the validity of contracts is freedom of form, unless – a signature on paper is not required by law. Freedom of form also applies to the signature on “glass”.
As regards the provability: The electronic delivery slip is an indication of the delivery of the goods, not a proof. Further indications may be tour and GPS data, which “support” the electronic delivery receipt. In case of doubt, the driver will have to testify in court that he has delivered.
In practice, freight forwarders now work as general terms and conditions with the latest ADSp – General German Forwarder Conditions, which stipulate in the current version the validity of the digital delivery documents between the two contracting parties.
Here in § 5.6:
Electronic or digitally generated documents, in particular proof of delivery, are equivalent to written documents. In addition, each party is entitled to archive written documents only electronically or digitally and to destroy the originals in compliance with legal regulations.
So, if a contractor enters into a contract with a forwarding company, he automatically recognizes the validity of the electronic delivery documents.