What is the electronic signature? Definition and issues

Like the handwritten signature, the electronic signature makes it possible to know the identity of the signatory of a document in digital version (Word, PDF…) and thus to check its integrity. At the legal level, the Civil Code 1367 and the EU Regulation give it the same legal status as handwritten signed documents. But beware, under certain conditions. At a time when dematerialization is becoming more and more democratized, the electronic signature is attractive and essential for many service providers and companies.

What is an electronic signature?

A digital signature or “electronic signature” is simply the equivalent of the handwritten signature of paper documents, but this time for digital documents such as Word or PDF files. The electronic signature is more and more widespread in companies and administrations. Indeed, it is an incredible saving of time and energy in the exchange of documents. Environmentally, it is also an excellent way to reduce paper printing. To sum up, an electronic signature is: an electronic certificate, a system for verifying the identity of the signatory, a new possibility to prove that the document has not been modified since it was signed.

What is the purpose of an electronic signature?

Of course, in this age of digitalization and the challenges of dematerialization in companies, the electronic signature has the ultimate goal of completely replacing the handwritten signature. However, there is still a certain lack of trust, which it still reassures. To reach this optimal level of confidence, the electronic signature must allow 100% formal identification of the signatory. Digital signatories who are therefore led to sign a dematerialized document must therefore increasingly understand and integrate the fact that a signature, even a dematerialized one, is a real commitment, as much as with paper and pen. A duty of responsibility on the one hand and a duty to reassure on the other hand, especially companies and institutions, because in the end the question is often the same: how to ensure that a digitally signed document has not been tampered with or modified?

Today, you should know that a digitally signed PDF document guarantees the integrity of its data and information. This means that it is possible to check that no one has modified the file (Word, PDF) since the signature was affixed. A news that will reassure those who are most concerned.

What documents can be digitally signed? They are numerous: company documents (estimates, contracts, invoices of all kinds…), HR documents, commercial documents, invoices, membership contracts, sales contracts, but also inventories, leases, preliminary sales agreements, life insurance, credits…

Why opt for an electronic signature?

  • We live in a world where ecological issues must become a priority: the electronic signature makes it possible to limit the use of paper!
  • The electronic signature is a real gain because it can be done remotely without the need for a physical presence.
  • In a cost containment strategy, the electronic signature can make the difference!
  • In terms of security, the electronic signature can reduce the risk of forgery of a signature, thanks to the authentication tools
  • Logistics requires and problematic access to information: with the electronic signature it is possible to check a signed PDF file from a simple mobile phone.
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