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Know the right QES-tion? .

 7th Jul 2020

The right question can make all the difference to a preferred outcome and getting there efficiently. This last week has seen two pieces of news that may affect many of us, both abbreviated as “QES”.


BCC Quarterly Economic Survey

The British Chambers of Commerce’s Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) – the UK’s largest independent survey of business sentiment and a leading indicator of UK GDP growth – found that UK economic conditions deteriorated at an unprecedented rate in the second quarter of 2020, substantially lower than the worst quarter of the 2008-09 recession! BCC called for a package of measures including investment in productivity, people and carbon reduction. Director General, Dr Adam Marshall, said “Business communities across the UK want to see a clearer, bolder roadmap to recovery that helps them restart, rebuild and renew.”


That’s where the second QES may help - as a cornerstone of not only removing most of the paper persisting within existing processes but also supporting more efficient and effective cross-border trade transactions. Last week’s 4th anniversary of the EU Identification and Trust Services Regulation (“eIDAS”), which analysts see as having GDPR-like significance for eSigning globally, highlights the gap that UK businesses need to address. During lockdowns, whilst many UK firms bedded-down fearing the financial impact, many EU companies who re-focused on their digital capabilities grew – taking business from competitors. We have seen like-for-like new digital onboarding sales increase over 500% quarter-on-quarter.

eIDAS logo

Like GDPR the EU often leads the way in defining important standards for the digital age. These standards are then adopted to varying degrees around the world, slowly but surely. eIDAS introduced passport-like assurance of identity processes throughout the UK and all EU member states. It identifies three levels of signing; Basic, Advanced and Qualified. Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES) are the highest level, combining convenience with legal weight equivalent to handwritten wet ink signatures but with greater security and EU-wide acceptance.


Organisations that use US-owned vendor signing platforms run multiple risks. First, documents signed using the more basic standard prevalent in the more loosely controlled USA system may not have enough provenance if challenged in courts on this side of the Atlantic. Second, the data privacy contradictions and conflicts from attempting to satisfy both the US Cloud Act and GDPR may open large exposures for the unwary or hold back others from digitally transforming.


Perhaps that is why many large corporate users in the UK on these systems still revert to paper for most of their signing with European counterparts - with its associated delays, costs and virus safety implications. The legal complexities across so many member states are challenging for the lawyers, particularly ‘tech-shy’ ones. The alternative seen is using the high costs and delays of co-ordinating lawyers in all involved countries.


But that is exactly why eIDAS was needed. Technology for QES which was once somewhat clunky now offers Cloud-based convenience, speed and control of the best workflow systems. What’s more, for services provided by European vendors, such as Namirial, concerns over privacy are negated. Successful businesses for the next decade will be digital at their core. It’s time the UK focuses on how to succeed aided by such productivity boosting technologies, not just to ‘bounce-back’ but to jump forward.



Signature Technology and Further Information:

Signature terminology


Useful Links:

European electronic Identification: https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/e-identification

What is eIDAS? https://www.icon-uk.net/What_On_Earth_is_eIDAS.html

Discover how to take advantage of eIDAS in your sector: https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/discover-eidas - or ask us how.   

U.S. CLOUD Act vs. GDPR: https://www.activemind.legal/guides/us-cloud-act/

UK Law Commission Report on electronic document execution: here 


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