Legal ICT

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Legal advice / Electronic signature

Did you know that an electronic signature includes the same legal consequences as a handwritten signature? This makes it legally possible to conclude electronic contracts.

Differing from a signature on paper, the electronic signature comes in three different formats. All three are legally valid, provided that they meet certain requirements.

  1. The standard electronic signature is the basic version. An example is a scanned signature on paper, pasted under an e-mail message as an image. This version is usually not recommended because it is prone to fraud. However, if the signature has been found to be sufficiently reliable (such as e-mail used internally at a company), this type of signature is legally valid.
  2. The advanced electronic signature uses mathematical techniques to link a unique code to a message. This code is derived from the message itself and from the sender’s identity. This means that the code cannot be used for a forged message, and as a result an advanced electronic signature is soon deemed to be reliable and therefore legally valid. This format is also known as the “digital signature”.
  3. The qualified electronic signature is the most secure option. It is an advanced electronic signature which has been verified by means of a certificate issued by an approved certification service provider. In the Netherlands the OPTA, the Dutch telecoms regulator, approves and registers certification service providers.

Electronic or digital signatures can be used in different ways. Whether they are legally valid depends on a variety of circumstances and the purpose for which they are placed and used. A signature under an e-mail containing a company message is assessed in another way than a signature under a digital insurance policy, for example.

Legal ICT has knowledge of both the technological and legal aspects and is able to provide you with expert and practical advice on the possibilities and limitations of electronic signatures.

The following points should be considered before making use of an electronic signature:

  • Is the electronic signature I am using legally valid?
  • What type of electronic signature should I place on an electronic contract?
  • Is an electronic signature really necessary?
  • I plan to convert written documents with a signature into a digital format. How should I organize that process?
  • If I print a PDF document with an electronic signature, is the printed document still legally valid?
  • I plan to invoice electronically. How should I organize that process? How should invoices be signed electronically?
  • As an insurer, I will be using digital insurance policies and I therefore plan to digitize the entire insurance process. How should I go about this? How can I ensure that I comply with all the legal requirements?

Legal ICT has partnered with Xolphin to provide electronic signatures (as well as website security and SSL certificates).


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