E-signatures and the Realization of the EU Single Digital Market

The schilling. The franc. The lira. The kroon. The ink signature.

In unifying currencies, the euro has swept away one huge impediment to conducting business across European boundaries, and now the electronic signature is about to eliminate another.

Although the EU has had directives in place for 17 years to enable the use of e-signatures, the way the first directive ( eSignatures Directive 1999/93/EC) was framed allowed member states to interpret the new law and impose their own restrictions, limitations, and exceptions. This led to a patchwork of differing laws, with some countries imposing strict versions of the law and others taking a more liberal approach. As a result, there was no real interoperability or mutual recognition between the EU member states. This fragmentation undermined the EU’s goals of moving toward a single digital market.

By 2011, revising the Directive became one of the European Commission’s top priorities. To repair these weaknesses and develop a single digital market, the EC conducted a review and developed a new law. This law was intended to ensure confidence in electronic signatures and create mutual recognition of electronic signatures across all member states.

In addition, this law would be a regulation, not a directive. Directives contain legal principles and are subject to member state interpretation and implementation. Regulations represent European Union laws directly applicable in the member states.

eIDAS Clears the Way

EU businesses have needed a single e-signature law applied uniformly across all member states, and in 2014, the Council of the European Union adopted eIDAS (Regulation (EU) N°910/2014) to meet that need. eIDAS supplies a legal structure for electronic identification, signatures, seals, and documents throughout the EU.

When eIDAS goes into effect on July 1, 2016, the old directive and any EU member state laws that are inconsistent with eIDAS will automatically be repealed, replaced, or modified. As a result, the European private sector will fully benefit from seamless and secure electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions, as well as a predictable regulatory environment in which to develop and expand the use of electronic signatures and transactions in the EU.

Adobe Sign Opens New Roads

With eIDAS on the horizon, new opportunities are going to arise for all companies doing business in the EU. To help businesses seize those opportunities, Adobe has been building out its infrastructure with technology and information assets to make e-signatures as easy and secure to use in the EU as they are in the US.

Adobe has placed computing power closer to end users by opening new data centers located in the EU. We’ve added support and integration for EU Trust Lists, the first major vendor to do so. And we’ve ensured that we have the local expertise in place to serve this new EU single digital market.

Adobe Sign is already a trusted solution in the EU, adopted by industry leaders like KLM, Telefónica, and Foxtons. With the roll-out of eIDAS and Adobe’s increased investment in meeting the needs of the EU market, all EU businesses are going to find it easy and safe to deploy electronic and advanced signatures in daily business transactions ranging from simple workflows to business-critical contracts.

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