Conducting transactions using an electronic signature:
Its legal significance
The legislative framework for electronic signature
The electronic signature is a mathematical system of electronic data used to prove the authenticity of a message or document.
The concept of e-signature was introduced into the Greek legal system by P.D. 150/2001, which incorporated Directive 1999/93 / EC. The latter set the legal framework for the use and legal validity of the e-signature. This Directive was repealed by Regulation 910/2014 (“eIDAS Regulation”), which regulates, also in our country, the issues of e-signature.
Types of electronic signature
The Regulation introduces, among other, new regulations for electronic transactions – the distinction between “electronic signature”, “advanced electronic signature” and (for the first time adopted) “qualified electronic signature”. The latter is based on a qualified certificate for electronic signature. This certificate is issued (and it is unique for any person or legal entity) only by the Qualified Trust Services Providers, which have been recognized as such by the competent supervisory body (in Greece, such is the Hellenic Telecommunications & Post Commission).
In the broad sense of e-signatures, there is also included the “digitized signature”, i.e. the digital image of the handwritten signature. The latter is laid usually by using a special pen on a tablet. With the pen the signatory marks (“draws”) the image of his signature. The “digitized signature” is widespread in banking (known as e-signature).
Various electronic applications (already) enable traders to put their “digitized signature” in electronic documents.
The legal effects and the importance of electronic signature
According to the above Regulation, the qualified e-signature has legal validity equivalent to the handwritten signature. At the same time, however, the legal validity and admissibility of e-signature as evidence in legal proceedings is maintained. This despite the fact that the (simple) e-signature does not meet the requirements of the qualified e-signature.
The above legislative provisions are of particular legal significance: The person who lays a qualified e-signature cannot contest the legal consequences of his signature. Every other e-signature produces – in principle – the legal consequences of the handwritten signature. However, it is permitted for the signatory to prove that he is not the signatory and that he is not bound by it.
The differentiation in reliability and consequently in the legal “gravity” of the above signatures arises from the Greek legislation: Public organizations are obliged to use only a qualified e-signature, and only with this it is possible to participate in an e-procurement.
Should we finally choose to use it?
In the context of ever-increasing electronic transactions, the use of all types of electronic signatures has considerable advantages. The speed in the completion of a transaction, reduced costs, environmental protection are only some of them. Of course, the assurance of its credibility depends on the technical means used each time.
It is very important for the enterprises to get a full picture of the different types of electronic signatures as well as of the consequences of their use. This particular road seems to be safer for their business interests in a constantly evolving environment.
Υ.Γ. This article has been published in MAKEDONIA Newspaper, on 25th of November 2018