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What on Earth is eIDAS?

 8th Aug 2016

The Power of a Signature in a Digital World

Admittedly, much European focus recently has been on Brexit, so it’s no real surprise that there have been some substantial regulations and developments from within the European Union that have slipped under the radar. One such regulation that you might never have come across is eIDAS. 


On 1st July 2016, the provisions applicable to trust services under the eIDAS Regulation (Regulation (EU) N°910/2014) came into effect across the 28 Member States. This regulation applies within the UK and is already having a significant positive impact on Icon UK’s clients’ operations, as well as those of the wider business community, with the regulation paving the way for much greater use of digital identification services, such as eSignature solutions, that have the potential to transform business processes. 



Trust Services Regulations and the Impact on Business 


eIDAS presents opportunities for businesses to operate digital workflows across Europe with a solid legal basis for the use of electronic means of identification and verification, replacing a patchwork of varying laws across the continent. eIDAS will allow businesses to work without the uncertainty of whether the process they’re using have a legal standing or provide adequate protection from risk, thus providing them the opportunity to make the most of the ‘digital single market’. 


eSignatures have had a legal standing since the introduction of the EU’s eSignature Directive 1999; before then, only paper and ink signatures were legally admissible. eIDAS takes eSignatures a step further than the previous directive, blending a range of ‘Trust Services’ with eSignature solutions to provide robust means of electronically identifying and verifying authorisations and agreements. 


This change in regulation is designed to speed the uptake of digital identification technologies, such as biometric signature verification, across EU member states in order to help businesses take advantage of efficiencies in time and cost that can be generated by such technology, together with the significant reduction in risk from fraud and misrepresentation, as well as enhancing data protection and identity verification. 



How Can You Take Advantage of this Regulation? 


Implementing an eSignature solution into your business now means that you can with the right advice benefit from the capabilities of such a solution - with immediate benefits for your organisation - and you can take advantage of the provisions of these new regulations which give you the same legal protection for electronically signed documents as is afforded to paper and ink-signed documents. What’s accepted in the UK will automatically be legally accepted across every member state – and vice-versa. 


Suddenly, the option to use eSignatures - including digital signatures, certificates and even deploying biometric signature verification - is a credible one for businesses and the competitive-edge opportunities are wide-ranging. Let’s take a look at some. 


Anti-Fraud in High Value Transactions 

Large financial or property transactions can pose a significant prize for career fraudsters. Using biometric eSignature verification can enable vendors to be certain of the identity of the person they are dealing with to prevent identity fraud at a distance, or identity misrepresentation when face-to-face. The unique characteristics of a signature can be analysed against pre-enrolled profiles to give a biometric assurance of identity, putting your security measures at odds with the fraudsters - and you win. 


Remove the Pain of Long-Distance Contract Signing 

Multiple signatories in multiple locations, all remote from each other, may be required to endorse contract or other legal documentation. Traditionally, this would mean the document being posted around the country (or world!) to collect original signatures. An eSignature solution now can allow this inefficiency to be eradicated and documents sent and signed within minutes, not weeks. 


Improve Efficiency in Gaining Commitment 

Use eSignatures to allow field sales representatives to get customer signatures on orders and contracts quickly using mobile devices or replace posted and ‘print-sign-scan’’ papers with electronically signed documents that speed up processes and integrate directly into your document management workflows. Save time and money, gain happier customers and all whilst reducing your paper burden. 



Brexit Jitters 


Of course, with the uncertainty surrounding when we might leave the EU following the June referendum, it’s certainly wise to question how long an organisation can take advantage of these regulations. Well, there is no guarantee, but it is likely that on exit from the EU, the provisions of the regulation would have some continuity in British law. For any continued trading, it would not make sense to put the UK at a competitive dis-advantage by repealing the new legislation.  


Even if repealed in an unlikely worst case, as eSignature technology adoption grows it is likely that Parliament will produce legislation which would bring parity with the provision of eIDAS and other laws from around the world. To add to that, there are some existing protections in British law already (for some light reading, take a look at the Electronic Communications Act 2000, and the Electronic Signatures Regulations 2002 (SI 2002 No. 318)), so any investment now in eSignature infrastructure and processes would not be lost.  


Britain’s problem is not the ability to implement solutions, but Brexit-enhanced myopia preventing a myriad of uses being envisioned to gain competitive advantage over European and global rivals. We need to embrace eIDAS now or face being dictated to by overseas scale players in the future.



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