In August of this year, an amendment to the Notarial Code was published in the Collection of Laws, introducing several significant changes concerning notarial services from 1 September 2021.
The amendment thus follows on from the Act on the Right to Digital Services, thanks to which people have the right to resolve official matters exclusively electronically. It is now possible to draw up a significant number of notarial deeds in electronic form using videoconferencing without requiring one’s physical presence in the notary's office. Another novelty is the creation of a Register of Verified Signatures and also of a Collection of Documents, where all notarial records will be registered.
Electronic notarial records
As already mentioned, a novelty that should improve and simplify the business environment is the option to draw up remotely electronic notarial records related to the commercial law agenda. Together with the use of the direct entry in the Commercial Register, it is thus possible to establish a business company and/or make corporate changes to it entirely online. In practice, through videoconferencing, participants show to a notary a document of identity with a photograph or biometric data, with the notary being obliged to certify the validity and credibility of the document used. It will therefore be possible to draw up remotely a notarial record, for example, with a document with activated certificates for electronic identification, through the so-called bank identity or using a user account on the eidentita.cz portal. The notarial record, which will be drawn up in electronic form, will have to contain, inter alia, the recognized electronic signature of the participants or their representatives and the qualified signature of the notary.
Records of Verified Signatures and Collection of Documents
Another fundamental change that the amendment brings about is the creation of a Register of Verified Signatures and a Collection of Documents.
All signatures that have been hitherto notarized in the Czech Republic are now registered in the Register of Verified Signatures. Each verified signature has its own serial number and QR code, thanks to which it is easy to verify the authenticity of an authentication clause. One may view the Register of Verified Signatures on the website of the Chamber of Notaries of the Czech Republic (NKČR). It is now also possible to legalize an electronic signature. In such a case, the authentication clause shall be prepared in electronic form, furnished with the qualified electronic signature of the notary, and attached to the electronically signed document.
In the Collection of Documents are registered both notarial records drawn up in electronic form as well as notarial records written in paper form, which will then be converted into electronic form and furnished with the qualified electronic signature of the notary. Just as for the Register of Verified Signatures, the Collection of Documents can be viewed via the NKČR website after entering the relevant serial number and the date of the notarial record. However, the scope of information that is publicly available in this way is considerably limited – only data on the participant to the notarial record, the date of its drawing up, and the subject of the act are available. The content of the notarial record itself is not publicly accessible due to the protection of the legitimate interests of the participants. The creation of the Collection of Documents, as well as the Register of Verified Signatures, is intended to increase protection against various fraudulent acts by enabling verification of the fact that a given notarial record actually exists and enabling certification of the authenticity of signatures.
It is also worth mentioning a change that does not concern the digitization of services, but nevertheless has a major impact on the citizens of the Czech Republic – there is a transfer of the authority to carry out higher certification of notarial records in contacts with foreign countries (so-called apostille). From 1 October 2021, apostille clauses on documents issued or certified by notaries will be newly issued by the Chamber of Notaries of the Czech Republic at its registered office and in all regional chambers of notaries, instead of by the Ministry of Justice.
The changes introduced by the amendment to the Notarial Code follow the trend of digitizing state administration, which should significantly simplify the business environment in this case, and also significantly reduce the scope for any fraudulent conduct in the authentication of signatures and notarial records. In addition to these positives, it should be noted that these changes also bring about an increase in the complexity and volume of work in already busy notarial offices.