Simple, Advanced or Qualified Signature: Which Variant Suits You Better

Electronic signatures play a crucial role in meeting the requirements of digital commerce. They are used in a variety of scenarios, such as signing contracts online, electronic invoicing, concluding online credit agreements and many more.
The following text compares the different types of e-signatures and discusses their areas of application, legal framework and the respective advantages.

Advantages of the electronic signature

The implementation of electronic signatures in business processes offers companies a number of significant advantages. In addition to ensuring legal certainty, they considerably speed up processes and increase resource efficiency.

In practice, the use of e-signatures leads to a significant increase in productivity by shortening process times and minimizing costs. In addition, the seamless integration of electronic signatures into digital workflows improves collaboration with internal and external stakeholders.
Another benefit that should not be underestimated is the contribution to environmental protection: by dispensing with paper, resource consumption is significantly reduced, which lowers the environmental impact and helps companies to minimize their ecological footprint.

The different levels of e-signatures, from simple to qualified variants, offer companies tailor-made solutions for the respective security and compliance requirements.

Legal framework

The eIDAS Regulation (Regulation on Electronic Identification and Trust Services for Electronic Transactions in the Internal Market) is a key piece of European Union legislation that establishes a binding legal framework for the use of electronic signatures. This regulation ensures that electronic signatures are recognized as legally binding in all EU member states and promotes digital interaction within the internal market through secure, electronic identification and trust services. The eIDAS Regulation defines the electronic signature as a legally valid instrument in the digital space and thus creates the basis for trustworthy electronic transactions throughout the EU.

Legal recognition

According to eIDAS, electronic signatures are legally recognized in all member states of the European Union. This applies to all types of electronic signatures, from simple to qualified signatures. In countries outside the EU, similar legal frameworks apply that ensure the legal recognition of electronic signatures, which means that international business processes are also legally protected.

Types of signatures

eIDAS differentiates between three security levels of electronic signatures: simple (EES), advanced (FES) and qualified electronic signatures (QES). The regulation ensures that the qualified electronic signature in particular enjoys the highest level of recognition and is equivalent to a handwritten signature.

Trust services

Special trust service providers are responsible for issuing advanced and, in particular, qualified signatures. These must be approved by the national supervisory authorities and meet certain security criteria in order to act as qualified trust service providers.

Mutual recognition

The eIDAS Regulation ensures that qualified electronic signatures issued in one EU country are recognized as equivalent in all other EU countries without further ado. This facilitates cross-border transactions and administrative processes.

Security and data protection standards

In addition to defining the legal recognition of electronic signatures, eIDAS also prescribes high security standards to ensure the integrity and authenticity of signatures. In addition, trust service providers must ensure data protection in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Overall, the eIDAS Regulation has made a significant contribution to establishing the electronic signature as a standard instrument for digital business life in the EU, creating trust and legal certainty for companies and consumers alike.

Differences and areas of application of EES, FES and QES

1. simple electronic signature (EES)

The EES is the basic variant of electronic signatures. It includes any type of electronic date that is used to indicate consent or approval. In technological terms, this can range from a scanned signature to a ticked box in an online form.

Due to the low technical requirements, it can be implemented quickly and without great effort. As no special technology is required to generate or verify such a signature, it can be integrated quickly and cost-effectively into a large number of digital processes. However, the legal security of the EES is limited due to the lack of mechanisms for secure verification of the signatory's identity.

For routine processes in which authenticity verification plays a subordinate role, the EES is sufficient. Examples of this could be orders in an internal merchandise management system or registration for company services.

2. advanced electronic signature (FES)

The requirements for the FES are much stricter. It must be designed in such a way that a clear connection to the signatory can be proven. The identity of the signatory is verified by using verified identification methods such as digital certificates issued by recognized service providers. These certificates guarantee that the signature data is assigned exclusively to the signatory, which provides a high level of authenticity assurance. The signatory retains full control over the creation of the signature, as only they have the necessary keys or passwords. In addition, the signature is documented in such a way that it can be used as evidence in the event of legal disputes.

FES is used in business areas in which contracts and agreements do not necessarily require the legally prescribed written form, but nevertheless require an increased level of security. This includes confidential business agreements, sensitive internal documents or electronic documents that require verifiable approval, such as internal approval processes.

3. qualified electronic signature (QES)

The QES represents the highest level of security and trust. It is created using special, certified devices or services and requires personal identification, which is often carried out using secure signature creation devices.

The identification process can take place in a personal appointment with a trust service provider, for example, where the identity of the signatory is verified using an official identification document. Alternatively, identification can also take place online via a video identification procedure, in which the person identifies themselves using video communication and suitable documents.

The recognition of the qualified electronic signature is legally equivalent to a handwritten signature. This makes it an indispensable instrument for contracts and official documents that require compliance with specific legal formal requirements.

Its field of application includes the conclusion of contracts with significant financial or legal implications, such as the purchase of real estate. The Qualified Electronic Signature is also essential for the formal registration of company data in order to meet legal requirements and ensure the legal validity of the documents submitted.

Decision relevance

The choice of a suitable signature is a key factor for the legal validity of electronic documents. Companies must weigh up the type of transaction, the legal framework and the need for verifiability. While the QES offers the highest level of security and legal validity, an FES or even an EES may be sufficient for many everyday processes. Ultimately, it is a question of risk assessment and increasing efficiency in the digital workflow.

Advantages of the ContractHero e-signature

ContractHero stands out from other providers in particular due to its post-signature contract management. AdES and QES e-signatures can be used in ContractHero, and it ensures that companies can always keep an eye on the status of their signatures. International contracts can also be legally signed electronically with ContractHero. In addition, ContractHero's e-signature enables reminders, editing options, comment functions and direct changes without restarting the process. This makes work much easier and gives companies more control over their documents that require a signature. For detailed information on ContractHero's e-signature, we recommend you watch our special information video here:

Would you like to find out how ContractHero can support your company with contract management and electronic signatures? Book a free demo now and let our experts advise you.

Sebastian Wengryn

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