November 9th, 2016
On 1 July 2016, the European Union implemented new rules for electronic signatures, giving them the same legal weight as their “wet” – or ink-based – written counterparts.
The new eIDAS (European Identity and Trust Services) regulation has effectively put an end to a confusing patchwork of laws, making them consistent across every EU country.
So why has it taken so long? After all, the idea of a digital signature or certificate that proves you are who you say you are has been around for many years.
Businesses have been slow to adopt electronic signatures because “until now, there has been no legal framework or regulation which properly defines them,” argues Mark Greenaway, director of digital media at software firm Adobe.
Such confusion has fuelled scepticism.
“The technology has been around for a while, but adoption in the UK is now commencing because people are starting to believe in it,” says Richard Croft, chief communications officer at software company Legalesign.
The problem with written signatures – even those signed with a beautiful pen and a practised flourish – is that they can be forged.
“A [written] signature is simply weak evidence that somebody agreed to do something,” says Jon Geater, chief technology officer at Thales e-security.
“It is not exactly unique or special, nor does it prove particularly well that a person was genuinely present or consenting.”
Digital counterparts, on the other hand, whether using blockchain technology, which relies on a consensus agreement before verifying a signature, or password-based digital signatures, do away with this uncertainty.
“Modern digital technology provides considerably greater assurance that a piece of information was genuinely approved or agreed,” says Mr Geater.
This enables business relationships to be “described, enforced and verified without the unnecessary involvement of superfluous middlemen, and with much greater levels of proof,” he says.
Ron Hirson, chief product officer at US-based tech firm DocuSign, agrees, saying: “The benefits of digital business are outweighing the nostalgia of the hand-written signature.”
By Nicola K Smith Technology of Business reporter, BBC News
CRM with integrated e-signature
UK based CRM software business icomplete.com are seeing an uptake from SME’s to use e-signature documentation for business too and have integrated this functionality into their platform to make the whole process easy.
Clients can now be sent the documentation by email through the company’s icomplete account. The client signs the document electronically and emails it straight back and it automatically gets stored inside the CRM against the contact record.
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