Nowadays, we can find examples of electronic signature use in all types of sectors and industries. These types of solutions are not exclusive to public administration. Instead, electronic signatures are currently being implemented progressively in the private sector.
In this article, you will discover different use cases of this technology in practice, as well as a summary of its main advantages over the more traditional handwritten signature.
What will you find in this post?
- What is an electronic signature?
- Examples of electronic signatures
- Applications and use cases of electronic signatures
- Advantages of using electronic signatures
What is an electronic signature?
Before launching into examples of electronic signatures, it is helpful to start with a basic definition. In simple terms, we can say that an electronic signature is a system of identification and consent, replacing handwritten signatures in the digital realm.
In the legal environment, we find a specific definition in the European Union Regulation No. 910/2014, eIDAS, that establishes a common regulatory framework for electronic signatures in the European Union.
According to this Regulation, we refer to an electronic signature when “Electronic data is attached to other electronic data or logically associated with them, used by the signatory to create a signature.”
Therefore, an electronic signature (at least in some of its forms):
- Unequivocally identifies the signatory.
- Guarantees the integrity of the document - securing that it has not been modified or altered after signing.
- Ensures non-repudiation since it is reliable proof of the consent granted by the signatory, who cannot deny having signed the document in question.
Examples of electronic signatures
Electronic signatures do not have to adapt to a single format. Instead, they can be implemented in different ways, each with its own characteristics. Hence, we can cite the following examples of common uses of electronic signatures today:
- Digital certificates issued by a certificate authority.
- Token. Although considered an example of a digital signature, it is not widely used today and exists primarily in the banking sector.
- Identification and signing using biometric data.
- Username and password authentication (in either one or two steps).
- A digitized handwritten signature.
As previously mentioned, each example of an electronic signature has its own characteristics that depend on operation, reliability, and legal validity.
In this respect, we usually distinguish between the following:
- Simple electronic signature. This type has the lowest level of security. It consists of a simple association of electronic data, such as a log in using a username and password. Another example would be scanning a hand-signed paper document and sending it by email.
- Advanced electronic signature. In this case, the security level is much higher. As such, this type of electronic signature:
- Allows for the unequivocal identification of the signatory.
- Is uniquely linked to the signatory.
- Allows for the signatory to retain control.
- Is linked to the signed document in such a way that any subsequent modification thereof is detectable.
- Finally, we have the qualified electronic signature. Of the three, it has the highest level of security. Such is the case with cryptographic cards that contain a digital certificate. Thus, it is an advanced electronic signature with the following two additional characteristics:
- It has been generated by a qualified electronic signature creation device.
- It is based on a qualified electronic signature certificate.
Applications and use cases of the electronic signature
Today, numerous instances of the practical application of electronic signatures exist. We can mention the following examples, to name but a few:
- The use of electronic signatures for all kinds of contracts. For example, in the labour, commercial or administrative areas, among others.
- To verify receipt of documents by their final recipient. In this case, the unequivocal identification of the signatory provided by advanced or qualified electronic signature solutions is necessary.
- To carry out all kinds of public administration procedures, such as:
- In the fiscal area, the presentation of tax and fee declarations or payments. Without a doubt, this is one of the best known and most used examples of electronic signatures.
- Enrol in competitive examinations or other types of selection processes for employment in the public sector.
- Consult administrative records.
- Participate in bids for public contracts.
- Submit all types of requests through public electronic records.
- Publish in official newspapers.
- File the annual accounts of a business with the Commercial Registry.
- Make an appointment with various public services, such as health, tax, Social Security, Police, etc.
Uses of the electronic signature by sectors: examples
✅ Temporary and permanent employment contracts.
✅ Occupational risk prevention.✅ Receipts for equipment delivery.
✅ Rental contracts.
✅ Reservation and security deposit contracts.
✅ Private sales contracts.
✅ Insurance policies.
✅ SEPA mandates.
✅ Account or address change forms.
✅ Employment offers.
✅ Temporary and permanent employment contracts.
✅ Personal data protection contracts.
✅ Sales contracts.
✅ Purchase orders.
✅ Service provision contracts.
✅ Minutes of boards of directors.
✅ Shareholders' meetings.
✅ Partner agreements and investment contracts.
Advantages of using electronic signatures
As seen from the examples above, the advantages of electronic signatures over handwritten signatures are vast. Among many other benefits, we can add the following to the list:
- Speed and efficiency
Thanks to electronic signatures, completing all kinds of procedures can be accelerated. Not only are travel by the signatory or shipments by postal mail avoided, but the automation of any process of signing and sending documents is also made possible.
- Cost savings
What stands out, in particular, are savings made on travel and postal mail services. There is also a reduction in spending on office supplies. Further savings (in personnel costs, for example) occur due to the increased speed and automation of the process.
- Legal security
Undoubtedly, the legal certainty provided by an advanced or qualified electronic signature can excel that of the traditional handwritten signature. It makes it much more difficult to forge signatures and prevents the integrity of the signed document from being compromised.
- Improved user experience
The convenience, speed and efficiency of the electronic signature process is often highly appreciated by users of all types of services. For anyone who has experienced face-to-face procedures that required a handwritten signature, avoiding travel and saving time are very tangible benefits.
- Environmental benefits
What stands out at this point are the advantages related to the elimination of paper and, of course, the reduction of pollution derived from transport (either by avoiding postal shipments or the movement of signers).
In brief, the examples of electronic signatures detailed in this article highlight the advantages of using this type of solution. Additionally, technological advances in recent years have made it possible to rectify the inconveniences that some of the earliest types of this tool presented.
As a result, the widespread implementation of electronic signatures is now a reality in an increasing number of areas and sectors, and it has not stopped growing in recent times.
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