The electronic signature and stamp: what you need to know before getting started
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The electronic signature and stamp: what you need to know before getting started

Currently, commercial and professional exchanges are increasingly carried out through modern means of communication. Physical exchanges are becoming increasingly rare. Debates and negotiations are done by videoconference. And when it's time to seal the deal, documents are written and shared in an electronic format, then digitally signed and stamped. Thus the digital signature and stamp, although they are only being tested in certain organizations, are already part of the means of authentication of the future.

A new context

COVID-19 and confinement have been conducive to the development of a new way of living, exchanging and doing business. Increasingly, physical contact is becoming rare and remote communication is becoming a standard. So much so that the fact that a large number of its employees are teleworking is no longer even a handicap for the company. On the contrary, companies dare to recruit people who live thousands of kilometers. Digital contracts and agreements are becoming popular and as expected, signatures are done online.

In order to replace the traditional paper medium, commercial and administrative documents are digital. Thus, it was also necessary to replace and create electronic versions for the handwritten signature and the traditional ink pad (for more info, visit this site ink pad). In concrete terms, the signature and the digital stamp are tools offered by certain service providers which ensure that the documents, signatures and stamps are authentic. In concrete terms, a company signs a contract for an online company signature and stamp. Each time the use of these tools is necessary, the user draws up the document directly on the service provider's site and invites the various signatories to also connect there. A digital version of the document, signed and stamped, is then sent to all interested parties, with mentions of certification of authenticity from the service provider as well as the legal provisions in the event of a dispute.

Do stamps and digital signatures have legal value?

The eIDAS convention, or European regulations on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions, sets out the basics of the system in Europe. And in France, it is the law n° 2000-230 which governs the legal value of the signature.

This law specifies precisely what criteria will be taken into account for the digital signature and stamp to be deemed compliant. In particular, it confirms the indivisibility of these two elements. The stamp alone is not valid, for example, unless it is accompanied by an electronic signature, the latter being the only element to which the legal value is really attached. As with traditional documents and stamps, several pieces of information must also be present in order to validate the document.

 In addition, for the document to be valid, the service provider offering the service must also meet the requirements put in place by eIDAS. In particular, he must obtain the necessary authorizations from the organizations concerned, depending on the country of origin. Note that the company is free to use any service provider of its choice, even service providers from other countries, but within the Union.

Simple, advanced and qualified electronic signatures

Above all, the simple electronic signature is not subject to any real constraint and is not regulated. In reality, a simple electronic signature is any other form of electronic signature that is neither advanced nor qualified. We will explain these two terms better in the next few paragraphs. For example, suppose a person prints a document, signs it, puts a stamp on it and then scans it. He then sends it back in the form of an electronic file. We then speak of a simple electronic signature, the level of security of which is not high.

An advanced electronic signature, on the other hand, is governed by the eIDAS regulations. It must meet certain conditions such as being linked to its signatory in an equivocal manner as well as to the material that the latter has used, then allowing the signatory to be identified immediately. The service provider must also authenticate the document and ensure that it cannot be modified. An advanced electronic signature also requires more extensive verification of the signatory's identity. Different actions certifying the consent of the latter when signing the document, such as checkboxes for example, also strengthen its authentication.

A qualified electronic signature is associated with an even higher level of security. It requires the use of even more advanced identity verification techniques for the signatory. The physical presence of the latter or other equivalent means may be required. The signature must also be certified using advanced tools such as connection keys or smart cards, for example.

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