Expert tip: Digital signatures for eContracting

Digitale Signatur

The digital signature is part of each eContracting solution. Bundesdruckerei's expert Detlef Fischer explains why electronic signatures should be used.

Five misconceptions about digital signatures

Misconception 1: "Digital signatures are not even relevant for companies."

Detlef Fischer: The fact of the matter is that digital signatures save money and accelerate processes. Handwritten signatures on contracts and other important business documents are the biggest obstacle for paperless processes. This is according to 50 percent of IT users world-wide, as found in a study conducted by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM). Around half of the companies polled print documents, even with several copies, to sign them and then scan them again for electronic archiving. These media inconsistencies lead to high process costs, they hinder productivity and waste resources.

Misconception 2: "Digital signatures have not yet reached maturity."

Detlef Fischer: Germany has mature solutions and a clearly defined legal framework for using digital signatures. The highest security level, i.e. the qualified electronic signature (QES), has the same legal recognition as a signature on a paper document. The digital certificates needed for this are issued by trust service providers who are state examined and must comply with strict security requirements. These trust service providers can also extensively assist users regarding all matters related to the introduction of signature solutions.

Misconception 3: "Digital signatures offer only limited optimisation potential for business processes."

Detlef Fischer: The fact of the matter is that the advantages are considerable:

Digital signatures ensure processes that require a signature can be handled entirely on an electronic basis. One important area for this is eContracting where the contract processes are all mapped electronically. The potential for optimisation reaches into every area of a company, for instance, supplier contracts in purchasing, contracts in sales, export permits in logistics or taking part in public calls for tenders.

Misconception 4: "Digital signatures can only be used at national level."

Detlef Fischer: Companies will soon be able to benefit from the advantages of digital signatures at European level too. The new regulation on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market of the European Union (eIDAS) contains rules for exchanging electronic signatures throughout the EU beginning in 2016. This means that an electronic signature that complies with eIDAS is valid in all the Member States of the European Union.

Misconception 5: "Electronic signing is much too complicated."

Detlef Fischer: Bundesdruckerei's web-based signature platform sign-me makes it much easier to sign electronically. sign-me offers legal certainty and protects the data throughout the entire electronic signing process. There is no need to install special signature software or for assistance from signature experts. And, what's more, sign-me already complies with eIDAS.

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