Istanbul Law Review
Online Formation, Online Filing of Company Documents and Online Disclosure in the Register according to the Digitalisation Directive (EU) 2019/1151 and the German Law (DiRUG)Funda Özdin
In these days marking the end of the manual age and moving quickly into the digital age, humans are witnessing how the phenomenon of digitalization surrounds people in both individual and social spheres as well as in business life. At a time when digital transformation has taken effect in almost all areas of life, law is expected to keep pace with these developments, as it cannot afford to lag behind the dynamics of life. Corporate law is one branch of law that has been strongly affected by this digital transformation. When looking at both international and national developments in recent years, many new regulations can be seen to have been made under company law regarding the broader use of digital tools and processes. One important regulation that should be mentioned in this context is the Digitalisation Directive (European Union [EU]) 2019/1151, which was enacted on July 31, 2019. With this directive, many regulations were made regarding company law and increasing digital applications. A comprehensive draft law Gesetz zur Umsetzung der Digitalisierungsrichtlinie [Law implementing the digitalization directive, or DiRUG] was prepared in the EU member state of Germany in order to incorporate the directive’s provisions into national law, which entered into force on August 1, 2022. This study deals with the provisions of the Digitalisation Directive and DiRUG regarding the online formation of companies, the online filing of company documents and information, and the online disclosure of companies registers of member states.
2019/1151 sayılı AB Dijitalleşme Yönergesi ve Alman Hukuku (DİRUG) Uyarınca Online Şirket Kuruluşu, Sicile Online İbraz ve Sicil Kayıtlarının Online İlanıFunda Özdin
Manuel çağı kapatıp dijital çağa hızlı adımlarla geçiş yaptığımız şu günlerde, “dijitalleşme” olgusunun insanoğlunu gerek bireysel ve toplumsal alanda gerekse iş hayatında nasıl çepeçevre kuşattığına hep birlikte tanık olmaktayız. Dijital dönüşümün hayatın neredeyse her alanında etkili olmaya başladığı böyle bir zamanda, hayatın dinamiklerinin gerisinde kalma lüksü olmayan hukuk biliminden de bu gelişmelere ayak uydurması beklenmektedir. Nitekim son yıllarda hukukun hemen her alanında dijitalleşme odaklı düzenlemeler ve uyarlamalar yapılmakta olup; şirketler hukuku da bu gelişmelerden payına düşeni ziyadesiyle almaktadır. Teknolojik gelişmelerin ekonomi hayatına kazandırdığı dijital hareketlilik ve hız, özellikle bu dünyanın önemli aktörleri olan şirketlerin söz konusu gelişmelere ayak uydurabilecek şekilde dizayn edilmelerini ve buna paralel olarak gerekli hukuki düzenlemelerin yapılmasını zorunlu hale getirmiştir. Nitekim gerek uluslararası gerekse ulusal boyutta yapılan çalışmalara bakılacak olduğunda, dijital enstrüman ve yöntemlerin şirketler hukuku alanında daha geniş bir şekilde kullanılması amacına yönelik birçok yeni düzenleme yapıldığı görülmektedir. Bu bağlamda incelenmesi gereken önemli düzenlemelerden bir tanesi, 31.07.2019 tahinde yürürlüğe giren 2019/1151 sayılı AB Dijitalleşme Yönergesidir. İlgili yönerge ile şirketler hukukunda dijital uygulamaların artırılması amacıyla çok sayıda yeniliğe imza atılmıştır. Nitekim Birlik’e üye ülkelerden Almanya’da, yönerge hükümlerinin ulusal hukuka dahil edilmesi amacıyla hazırlanan Kanun (DiRUG) da, 01. 08. 2022 tahinde yürürlüğe girmiş bulunmaktadır. Dijitalleşme Yönergesi ve buna paralel olarak Alman Hukuku’nda dijital uygulamaların sisteme dahil edilmesi amacıyla birden fazla alanda düzenleme yapılmış olmakla beraber; bu çalışmada yalnızca “online şirket kuruluşu”, “belgelerin/bilgilerin sicile online ibrazı” ve “sicil kayıtlarının online ilanı”na ilişkin yapılan düzenlemeler ele alınmıştır.
With the Digitalisation Directive (EU) 2019/1151, many regulations have been made regarding company law to increase digital applications. The main purpose of the directive is to facilitate the formation and registration of companies within the borders of the EU by enabling the use of digital tools and methods in the field of company law. In particular, the aim is to reduce the cost of incorporating start-ups and small- and medium-sized businesses as well as their time and administrative burdens. The EU member state of Germany recently passed Gesetz zur Umsetzung der Digitalisierungsrichtlinie [Law Implementing the Digitalization Directive, or DiRUG] in order to transpose the directive’s provisions into national law and entered into force on August 1, 2022.
The directive requires member states to ensure that the online formation of limited liability companies with cash capital may be carried out completely online without the need for applicants to appear in person before any authority. The decisions regarding whether online formation is possible for other kinds of companies and whether online formation can occur for limited liability companies with capital-in-kind are left to the member states. Meanwhile, member states are required to provide templates for the online formation of limited liability companies and make them available to citizens (or legal persons) of EU member states in order to facilitate the cross-border formation of corporations within the EU. The Directive has specifically pointed out certain issues that need to be regulated by member states in order to avoid some possible abuses and security breaches. However, the power to lay down detailed rules for the online formation of corporations has been absolutely left to the member states. German law provides the online formation only for limited liability companies with cash capital, while other types of companies and limited liability companies to be formed with non-cash capital are excluded from the scope of online formation. However, from August 1st, 2023, GmbHs that are to be founded with in-kind capital can also be founded online. New regulations in German law as created by DiRUG make it possible to handle the formation procedures completely online via video communication systems without applicants having to appear in person at a notary public. However, in cases where the notar [notary] is unable to perform their duties via the video communication system (e.g., if one of the parties cannot be identified or doubts exist about their legal capacity), the notary may refuse to carry out the transactions via the video communication system and require the physical participation of the person or persons concerned.
In addition to the possibility of online formation, the directive also contains regulations regarding the online filing of documents and information to the commercial register. In this context, member states are obliged to ensure that the relevant documents are able to be submitted completely online, thus enabling the registration process to be carried out online without the applicant having to appear in person before the person or institution responsible for carrying out the online submission procedure. In order to comply with this directive, DiRUG regulates German law to require notary to also be able to electronically certify the qualified electronic signatures to be executed via the video communication system. This means the law recognizes the possibility to electronically transmit documents created via the video communication system directly to the register. However, German legislation has made an exception to this, regulating that the notary may refuse online certification and require the physical participation of the person or persons concerned so that the notary can properly conduct the business, such as may occur in the case of online company formation.
Another innovation of the directive is the removal of the obligation to publish company documents and information with regard to disclosure. Instead, the register entries regarding the documents and information concerned are envisaged as being made directly accessible electronically/online. This regulation of the directive abolishes the dual disclosure system in German law, which had taken place via two separate internet portals in the form of online access to registration documents and separate disclosure of documents and information. Under the new system, only the entries in the register will be made accessible online, with the first retrieval of the entry in the commercial register via the electronic information and communication system being deemed a disclosure. The new system provides accessibility to the information entered onto the companies registers of member states, so that no difference will occur between the announced status and the recorded information. For this reason, the rule about the protection of confidence has been adapted to the new system, with the expression “confidence in the announced situation is preserved” being changed to “confidence in the registered situation is preserved.”