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Three factors which promote the use of e-signatures in Europe

This is a contributed piece Michael Laurie, vice president product strategy, eSignLive by VASCO

Doing business digitally throughout Europe is set to become easier and more widespread as new regulations and solutions to the market begin to ease transacting across borders. One of the technologies enabling this is electronic signatures. E-signatures help organisations of all sizes across all industries to complete business transactions digitally, anytime, anywhere, on any device, while improving the customer experience.

Analyst firm Forrester Research identified in a May, 2015 report: “Brief: E-Signature Transactions Topped 210 Million in 2014” that markets such as Europe represent a greenfield due to new legislation that promises to promote e-signature adoption across the region. Here are three recent developments facilitating the adoption of e-signatures in Europe.

The new eIDAS regulation in place from 1st July

The game-changer when it comes to e-signature adoption is the EU regulation eIDAS (Electronic Identification and Trust Services for Electronic Transactions in the Internal Market). eIDAS will replace the existing EU Directive on July 1 and provide a regulation that applies across Europe, essentially unifying cross-border recognition of e-identities and e-signatures. This standard for electronic signatures will result in secure and seamless electronic interactions between businesses, citizens and public authorities, transforming a process long blighted by confusion, inconsistencies and poor compliance.

While e-signatures have been recognised with the same legally-binding status as handwritten ink, it was each EU member’s different enactments of the directive that presented a problem. End users were often required to support multiple signature creation and verifications to accommodate the lack of applicability across multiple countries, an inconvenience which heavily undermined the original premise of digital communication to be a hassle and red tape-free alternative to paper-based activities.

EU-US Privacy Shield and the GDPR

As businesses move towards transacting completely digitally, data residency is an issue that will only intensify, particularly among regulated industries such as banking, insurance, government and healthcare that rely on safe and secure digital transactions.

The drive for improved data security will also gain momentum in light of the recent repeal of the Safe Harbour Privacy Principles, which allowed European citizens’ personal information from the EU to be sent and stored in US data centres. American firms, including Facebook and Amazon, were able to self-certify that the information they sent would be properly protected, a move that came under fire when it emerged the NSA was regularly accessing their user data, including the NSA’s mass surveillance carried out on technology companies.

A more robust approach to data security is driving both demand and opportunity. With the EU-US Privacy Shield, the successor to the Safe Harbour agreement, awaiting final approval, American companies no longer have a single standard for consumer privacy and data storage in both the US and Europe and the need for providers that meet in-country data residency requirements comes the fore. The scene is set for a solution provider to take the bull by the horns and spearhead the global drive of e-signatures, and crucially extend the reach from beyond the traditional territory of North America.

And with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the successor to the General Data Protection Directive, going into effect in 2018 with the aim of harmonising data protection regulations across the EU, there will still be restrictions on international data transfers without the proper safeguards in place and without the approval from a supervisory body.

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