7 min

Electronic signature – what is it?

One of the most common concerns about using the Autenti e-signature at a company is the issue of the legality of this form of concluding contracts or signing documents. The following article was written to explain what an electronic signature is, what requirements must be met and for documents signed electronically to be considered credible. We want to convince you that signing documents electronically with an Autenti digital signature is easy, legal and, more importantly, very convenient.

We asked experts from the Szostek_Bar i Partnerzy Law Firm to prepare a legal opinion regarding the conclusion of contracts by Autenti with the use of electronic signature, but we know that legal opinions are quite complicated and there is not always time to get through them. We chose the key conclusions for you confirming the value of signing documents electronically via the Autenti e-signature. To help you see the benefits of using Autenti, it is worth answering a few basic questions.

What is an electronic document?

An electronic document constitutes any content stored in electronic form, in particular text or sound, visual or audiovisual recording (according to the Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council (EU) No 910/2014: eIDAS).

Electronic signature – what is it?

The eIDAS regulation also defines what an electronic signature is. In order for a signature to be considered electronic, a few conditions must be met:

  1. it must be in electronic form
  2. it is submitted by someone who is a natural person
  3. it is attached to or associated with the content being signed
  4. the signing person is aware of using the signature to sign a given document

The Autenti platform enables placing multiple signatures on one document. The sender decides who is to sign the document. After the documents are signed electronically by all designated signatories, an advanced electronic seal is applied onto it.

Thanks to the use of an electronic signature, Autenti allows you to sign such documents as:

  • contracts for specific work
  • contracts of mandate
  • management contracts
  • record cards
  • acceptance reports
  • financial forecasts
  • purchase contracts
  • investment agreements
  • sales contracts
  • contracts with clients
  • NDA agreements with business partners
  • orders
  • briefing documents

Why are documents signed?

Regardless of the content of the document, by signing it, you confirm that you know its content and accept it or confirm receipt of the document. A signature on a document makes it become a piece of evidence. A signed documents as a piece of evidence is required in the following cases:

  • when you want to enforce its content (e.g. you want to obtain keys to the premises on the basis of a signed lease agreement),
  • to meet the requirements set by external entities (e.g. when selling a car, the city authorities and the insurer should be notified about this fact)

When are electronically signed documents credible?

If each electronically signed document constitutes evidence in court proceedings (Article 25 of eIDAS), how should the credibility of such a document be determined? Documents signed electronically via the Autenti platform are considered credible because:

  1. Autenti is a trusted third party as it enables the creation and verification of electronic signatures and electronic seals
  2. The document can be viewed in an unchanged format. Autenti makes it possible to meet the legal requirement to store a document in a way that makes it possible to save and view in an unchanged format, as well as to read its content.
  3. Each signed document is confirmed with an Autenti Certificate. The Autenti certificate bears the advanced electronic seal, which ensures the following:
    • the authenticity of the document's origin - i.e. the fact that the document was created and signed on the Autenti platform,
    • document integrity - meaning that all interested parties signed the same document
  4. The Autenti certificate also contains information about the entire document signing process – who and when placed the e-signature, and how the identity of the signing person was verified.

Storing the signed documents

In addition to the credibility of electronically signed documents, their place of storage is also important. Autenti provides each client with an encrypted archive that ensures the highest security standards and makes it possible to store hundreds of documents. If you prefer to keep your files on a private drive or in the cloud, you can download and save all electronically signed documents. From the legal point of view, the place where the electronic document is stored is irrelevant.

Do I need to have a qualified electronic signature to sign documents electronically?

A qualified electronic signature is equivalent to a handwritten signature and is useful when signing a document requires a written form. Most documents do not require this specific form. For some documents, this is clearly stated. In such cases, a qualified electronic signature is required to sign the aforementioned documents electronically. Examples of such documents are: general power of attorney, leasing contract or employment contract.

A qualified electronic signature certificate is required to use a qualified electronic signature.

It is issued by a limited number of institutions (the so-called qualified trust service providers such as Autenti). To obtain a qualified certificate identity verification on the basis of a personal ID or passport is required. The cost of obtaining such a certificate is several hundred zlotys a year and there is an obligation to renew it. You can find such a qualified signature in the Autenti offer.