What is an electronic signature?
Modern logistics based on a holistic IT system is particularly dependent on valid data and information. After all, a wide range of processes are intertwined and depend on reliable information being stored in the system and being available for further handling. This is especially true for receipts or invoices that are exchanged this way. This is exactly where the electronic signature comes into play, because it is an asymmetric signature procedure that is intended to provide reliable information about who is behind certain data or information.
In plain language: the electronic signature is intended to replace a manual, classic signature (= authentication) wherever documents of any kind can be processed electronically. In addition to logistics, this principle can be found in an increasing number of sectors, e.g. healthcare, industry or the banking and insurance sector. The legal basis is provided by the eIDAS Regulation, which has been in force since July 1, 2016, both in legal and technological terms. The abbreviation stands for "electronic IDentication, Authenticationand trust Services". This is a successor to EU Directive 1999/93/EC, which has been in force since the 1990s and which in turn led to the Signature Act (SigG) and the Signature Ordinance (SigV).
What are the different types of electronic signatures?
There are basically three quality levels that can be used to distinguish an electronic signature in the sense of the above principles. Depending on the intended use and necessity, it is then important to choose the appropriate variant.
- Simple electronic signature (EES)
The simplest and most basic variant of the electronic signature is the EES, which has little or no probative value in court. Classically, this would be scanned signatures that are transferred to a document as an image file. This is only suitable for internal purposes, such as releasing invoices or similar.
- Advanced electronic signature (FES)
The second stage of the electronic signature, the FES, is based on validation consisting of authentication of the signatory and assurance of the integrity of the document. It is considered to have a much higher probative value in court, since it is possible to see who exactly signed the document and whether and if so, how the document was changed. In essence, this type of electronic signature is used when declarations of intent of any kind are to be made in a legally compliant manner and, if necessary, at a later date. should be documented in an evidential manner. These include non-formal transactions, such as agreements between dealers and customers, or certain correspondence where these attributes are important.
- Qualified electronic signature (QES)
The third and highest level of the electronic signature is the QES, which is legally considered to ensure that a legally standardized requirement for written form can actually be met. However, it is only required for a very manageable proportion of all business transactions and also presupposes certain technical prerequisites on the part of all parties involved - among other things, each person must be identified and verified, which requires either cloud-based solutions for qualified electronic signatures or classic concepts such as a smartcard system.
What are the advantages of an electronic signature?
- Time savings: Electronic signatures make it faster and easier to sign and transmit documents.
- Cost savings: printing, copying, and mailing of paper documents is eliminated.
- Mobility: Documents can be signed from anywhere and at any time, increasing flexibility and efficiency.
- Security: Electronic signatures offer greater security than handwritten signatures because they are protected by encryption and digital certificates.
- Verifiability: An electronic signature provides irrefutable proof that a particular document was signed by the person in question.
- Environmental friendliness: Paper is no longer mandatory, which helps to reduce paper waste and thus CO2 emissions.
What are the disadvantages of using an electronic signature?
Although the use of electronic signatures offers many advantages, there are also some disadvantages:
- Technical requirements: It requires a stable internet connection, modern devices and separate software.
- Security concerns: Although electronic signatures are generally more secure than handwritten signatures, there are concerns about protecting sensitive data from hacking.
- Legal challenges: There is no uniform legal recognition of electronic signatures everywhere, which can lead to legal uncertainty.
- Compatibility issues: Not all systems and devices are compatible, which can make integration difficult.
- Training time: Some training time may be required, especially for users who are not familiar with digital technologies.