This guide covers a number of types of e-signatures that have different legal relevancy and uses the following terms throughout.
Electronic signature or e-signature, which covers all technologies and digital solutions that enable businesses and individual persons to create electronic signatures, including putting the image of a handwritten signature on a document, signing with pin codes, signing via ticking a checkbox, typing the name on an electronic document, or signing with an e-signature certification issued by a trusted service provider. As a high-level definition, an electronic signature is electronic data which is attached to or logically associated with other electronic data and which the signatory uses to sign.
In comparison with an electronic signature, a digital signature is technology that uses algorithms and encryption-decryption methods to detect unauthorised modifications to data and to authenticate the identity of the signatory (electronic identification). Digital signatures use PKI to verify the identity of a signatory. PKI uses two keys, one public and one private, for unique identification. Both the sender and recipient must have a digital certificate from a certificate authority.
Simple/standard electronic signature (SES), which means electronic data that is used by the signatory to sign and is attached to or logically associated with other electronic data, e.g. if a person attached his/her signature panel or name to the end of an email or simply typed his/her name at the end of a Word document. A SES does not verify the issuer’s personal identity or the integrity of the text, i.e. it cannot be guaranteed that the text has not been changed.
Advanced electronic signature (AES), which is a special type of digital signature that it is uniquely linked to, and capable of identifying, the signatory.
Qualified electronic signature (QES), which is a special type of AES digital signature that is created by a qualified electronic signature creation device and is based on a qualified certificate for electronic signatures. A QES and related qualified certificate can only be issued by a qualified trust service provider, which is designated by a supervisory body in each country.
Electronic time stamp, which is a digital data that certifies the date an electronic signature was created.
The eIDAS Regulation: Regulation (EU) No. 910/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 July 2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market and repealing Directive 1999/93/EC, which applies directly in each EU country in the CEE region (Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia).
It should be noted that on the basis of the eIDAS Regulation, in EU member states an electronic signature cannot be denied legal effect and admissibility as evidence in legal proceedings solely on the grounds that it is in an electronic form or that it does not meet the requirements for qualified electronic signatures. Furthermore, the eIDAS Regulation stipulates that a qualified electronic signature will have the equivalent legal effect of a handwritten (wet-ink) signature, and a qualified electronic signature based on a qualified certificate issued in one EU member state will be recognised as a qualified electronic signature in all other member states.
However, it varies from country by country whether other types of electronic signature, e.g. an AES or SES, are accepted as having the equivalent legal effect of a handwritten, wet-ink signature.