Do you want to sign documents online and with confidence? If you answered yes, you should be familiar with the advanced electronic signature, what requirements it must meet, the differences between it and other types of signature, and its uses.

It goes without saying that the digital transformation of companies is speeding up and the tools that facilitate this transformation are becoming more and more widely used.

What is an electronic signature?

The word “electronic signature” arose from the need for companies and public institutions to be able to sign documents and carry out procedures remotely. The electronic signature is equivalent to a handwritten or printed signature and shows that the signatory accepts the content of a document.

Regulation 910/2014 (eIDAS Regulation) was drawn up to regulate electronic signatures at the European level, which defines electronic signatures in Article 3 and establishes that they are data in electronic format attached to or logically associated with other electronic data used by the signatory to sign.

There are essentially two fundamental elements in the electronic signature process:

  • Verifying the identity of the signatory. Identity verification is performed in different ways:
  • A person’s feature is used to identify the signatory, e.g. fingerprints, voice, face or iris. Biometrics is performed in several stages: in the first stage, the signatory’s features are obtained, in the second stage, they are compared with the database, and in the third stage, the signatory is positively identified if they all match.
  • OTP ( One Time Password) One-time passwords can only be used once since they are generated for just a few minutes or seconds. In some banks, for example, a one-time password is sent to the handset in addition to the standard password for specific transactions as an additional security measure.

 

  • The recording of the signature and the signed document’s acceptance. It is performed through the use of the electronic time stamp and the generation of electronic documentary evidence. Under the eIDAS Regulation, an electronic timestamp is a set of data in electronic form that links other data in electronic form to a specific point in time, providing proof that the latter data existed at that point in time. Furthermore, in the electronic signature process, electronic documentary evidence is generated collecting all the data of the signature process: emails or mobile phone numbers being used, IPs used, document signed, dates of all the operations, etc. This document is stored by the electronic signature provider and can be downloaded at any time.

What is an advanced electronic signature?

An advanced electronic signature is one of the different types of electronic signatures that currently exist, which meets the requirements set out in Article 26 of the eIDAS Regulation, namely the following:

  • It is uniquely linked to the signatory.
  • It allows the identification of the signatory.
  • It is created using electronic signature creation data that the signatory can, with a high level of confidence, use under his sole control; and
  • It is linked to the signed data so that if a later modification occurs it can be detected.

What is the difference between an advanced electronic signature and a simple or qualified electronic signature?

The main difference between the advanced electronic signature and the simple electronic signature is the level of security. In the simple electronic signature, the signatory is not required to be identified, so the signatory can deny having signed the document. However, the same cannot happen with advanced electronic signatures since the signatory’s identification is a fundamental requirement so that the signatory cannot repudiate a signature already made.

Regarding the difference between advanced electronic signatures and qualified electronic signatures, the latter uses a hardware signature creation device and requires an electronic ID reader.

Therefore, a digital signature like a handwritten and scanned signature or a signature that is automatically embedded in a pdf, for example, does not provide the security that an advanced and qualified electronic signature does.

What kind of documents can be signed with an advanced electronic signature?

Just as mentioned before, the advanced electronic signature provides total security in the signature process and can be used to sign the following documents:

  • Labour documents: Work contracts, payslips, severance payments, letters of dismissal or reprimand, holiday requests etc.
  • Real estate documents: rental or purchase contracts, earnest money, offers, purchase options, sales mandates, etc.
  • Bank documents: account opening, card application, money transfer, account cancellation, application for loans or mortgages, pension plans, direct debits, etc.
  • Healthcare documents: reports, treatments, informed consent.
  • Documents in the telecommunications sector: Internet, mobile and landline telephone services.
  • Tourism documents: holiday rental contracts, check-in at hotels and flats, border formalities.
  • Insurance company documents: insurance policy signatures, renewals, extensions of coverage, acceptance of the general data protection regulation.
  • Documents from energy supply companies. Utility companies can use the electronic signature to sign supply contracts with new customers, change tariffs, or automate the commercial process to change tariffs or contract additional services.

So how does the advanced electronic signature configuration process work?

Using advanced electronic signatures is extremely simple. With Click & Sign, you can follow the steps below:

  • Register on the platform to get your username and password.
  • Then you will log in to the application with 28 credits to get a feel for how the tool works. On the left-hand side, you will see a menu with the following sections: dashboard, send documents, sent list and, my templates. On the right, you will see the documents sent out to be signed over the last 31 days and their status: signed, pending, expired, etc.
  • First of all, you have to generate a template with the basic details of the signature process: how the signatory is notified, whom you want to sign and how ( with the click of a button, with a one-time password or by biometric signature), when the signature button will be activated (it may always be activated or only if all the documents have been opened and/or read until the end), what documents the signatory must provide (e.g. ID card), the reminders and notifications to be sent to the signatory, and the whole process description.
  • Next, select the relevant template in the “Send documents” section and add the document you would like to be signed.
  • Finally, a report will be generated in several columns with the following data: date of sending, signatory data, expiry date, type of signature, documents and actions.
  • If you run out of your initial credits, remember that you only pay per use, and credits do not expire.

Is a document signed with an advanced electronic signature admissible as evidence in court?

The answer is yes since the validity of the advanced electronic signature is acknowledged by both the eIDAS Regulation and the Electronic Signature Act 6/2020, which state the following:

Article 25 eIDAS Regulation:

  1. An electronic signature shall not be denied legal effect and admissibility as evidence in legal proceedings solely on the grounds that it is in an electronic signature or that it does not meet the requirements for qualified electronic signatures.
  2. A qualified electronic signature will have the same effects as a handwritten signature.
  3. A qualified electronic signature based on a qualified certificate issued for one Member State will be recognised as a qualified electronic signature in all other member states.

Article 3 of the Electronic Signature Act:

  1. Public, administrative, and private electronic documents have the legal value and effectiveness corresponding to their respective nature, according to the legislation applicable to them.
  2. The evidence of private electronic documents in which a non-qualified trust service has been used shall be governed by the provisions of Article 326(3) of Law 1/2000, of 7 January, on Civil Procedure. If the service is qualified, the provisions of paragraph 4 of the same provision shall apply.

In any case, if an electronically signed document were to be impugned as evidence in a trial, an expert report would have to be provided to prove the security of the electronic signature and its validity as proof of the signatory’s statement of intent.

How to choose your electronic signature provider?

An IDG Research report found that 83% of survey participants found the experience of using -signatures unsatisfactory, 80% found the integration of esignatures cumbersome, and 60% found that interoperability is still pending in order to integrate e-signatures into their tools.

As a result thereof, several aspects need to be considered when choosing an advanced electronic signature provider:

  • It must meet all legal requirements to be an electronic signature provider based on the applicable regulations (eIDAS Regulation and Electronic Signature Act).
  • In addition, it must provide you with an API to help you integrate esignatures into your CRM, ERP or mobile application.
  • In addition, it must provide you with an API to help you integrate esignatures into your CRM, ERP or mobile application.
  • You should have the possibility to pay per use, with no set fees or minimum consumption.
  • It must be an esignature solution suitable for any sector of activity.
  • The tool should be user-friendly, with no specific knowledge required.

Since advanced electronic signatures can be a further step in the digitalisation of your company, it is essential that you know what they are and what you should ask your esignature provider. Hands down, it’s an excellent solution for virtually every business, and now you have the chance to try it out for free with Click & Sign.