The world of electronic signatures can seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. In Poland and the rest of the EU, electronic signatures on documents can be totally valid and legal. You need to know that an electronically signed document can be used as evidence in court.
Understanding Electronic Signature Validity in Poland
Allow me to explain a bit more. There are a few important regulations and laws that define how electronic signatures work. One is the Act of September 2016, which is a Polish law. The other is the eIDAS Regulation from July 2014, which is a European law.
These laws say that electronic signatures are totally okay. Even if they aren’t „qualified” electronic signatures, they’re still legal. In other words, you can use an electronic signature to make a contract official.
I think it is worth to say, this doesn’t mean all electronic signatures are secure, but if they’re certified, then you can trust them.
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Role of Trust Service Providers
Here’s where companies like Autenti come into play. They’re called trust service providers. Basically, they’re the middlemen who make sure everything’s safe and secure when you’re signing documents electronically. They use special certificates to make sure everything’s above board.
I can tell you that these trust service providers play a crucial role. They not only verify the people signing the documents, but they also make sure the data hasn’t been messed with. And, on top of all that, they make sure the document itself can be used as proof of a contract.
But, let me tell you, it’s not just about the signature. The document being signed needs to be valid too. I am convinced that understanding these rules can greatly ease your business operations.
So, if you’re running a business, knowing all this stuff can make your life a lot easier!
Different Types of Electronic Signatures in Poland
The way electronic signatures are used in Poland changed big time in 2016. Before then, if you wanted your electronically signed documents to be legally valid, you needed what’s called a qualified electronic signature. I know, it sounds fancy, right?
But let me break it down for you. A qualified electronic signature is just an advanced type of electronic signature. It’s unique to the person signing the document, it helps prove the signer’s identity, and it’s made using data that only the signer can use.
Plus, it’s linked to the document in such a way that any changes made after it’s signed can be spotted easily.
But, there’s a catch. To get this kind of signature, you need a qualified certificate. And you can only get these at specific places, they cost several hundred złotys a year, and you have to prove your identity very carefully.
And, this type of signature only works if the certificate is valid at the time you sign.
Now, according to the eIDAS Regulation, this type of electronic signature is as good as a handwritten one. And a certificate from one EU country works in all the others. But, you only need this kind of signature for certain types of documents that require a written form under the law.
Since September 2016, things got a lot easier. A new law made it so you don’t need a qualified electronic signature for most types of documents and contracts. Instead, an ordinary electronic signature on an electronic document is just fine. And trust me, this makes life a lot simpler!
These days, the trust service provider (that’s the company that helps you make electronic signatures) verifies the signer’s identity.
They can do this in several ways, like sending a link to the signer’s email or a one-time SMS code to their phone, along with their name and the IP address of the device they’re using.
They can even use video verification or ask you to log into your online banking account. However, I think it’s worth saying, if a document says it needs to be „written” under pain of nullity, you still need a qualified electrornic signature. If you’re just using a regular electronic signature, the document can only say it’s in „document form”.
Who’s Eligible to Use Electronic Signatures?
I believe it’s important to know who can use an electronic signature. Well, any natural person can use one. This means you, as an individual, can use it in your personal life and in your professional life.
If you’re representing another person or a company, you can use an electronic signature. Legal entities, like businesses, use something called an „electronic seal”.
The Regular Electronic Signature
Now, what exactly is a regular or 'simple’ electronic signature? I can tell you that it’s just data in electronic form that’s connected to or associated with other electronic data and used by the person signing as their signature.
Let’s say you type your name at the end of an email. Guess what? That’s an electronic signature! This definition covers a lot of different situations, even the simplest ones.
Advanced Electronic Signature
Then we have the „advanced electronic signature”. This one’s a bit more specific. An advanced electronic signature identifies the person signing, is unique to them, and is connected to the signed data so you can tell if anything changes afterwards.
Plus, it’s made using specific data that only the signer can use confidently.
What Happens When You Use a Qualified Electronic Signature?
Here’s a fun fact. A qualified electronic signature is just as legally valid as a handwritten signature. I know, right? Plus, it’s valid all across Europe. This means that if you have a qualified electronic signature based on a certificate from one EU country, it counts as a qualified electronic signature in all other EU countries.
Legal Implications of Non-Qualified Electronic Signatures
If you’re wondering about the legal standing of non-qualified electronic signatures, allow me to explain. An electronic signature won’t be denied legal standing or usability as evidence just because it’s in electronic form or doesn’t meet the criteria for a qualified electronic signature. That’s right, you heard it!
Using Someone Else’s Electronic Signature – A No-No!
Can you use someone else’s electronic signature, even if they said it’s okay or asked you to? I am convinced I need to tell you, you absolutely can’t.
If you make a qualified or advanced electronic signature using signature data that belongs to someone else, you could face a fine, limitations on your freedom, or even jail time up to 3 years. This also goes for people acting on behalf of or in the interest of another person, legal entity, or organization.
Ensuring Document Security with a Certified Electronic Signature in Poland
Now, it’s worth saying that even if an electronic signature is valid, a document can be contested if there’s no assurance it’s been secured against changes after signing. This is why trust service providers employ technical security measures to assure the authtenticity and integrity of documents.
When documents are signed, they’re stamped with an electronic seal. Think of it as a legal entity’s „signature”.
It verifies the document was sent using a trusted platform and signed by all parties in the original, unaltered form. The electronic seal gives you evidence of the signing process and can serve as proof in court.
Autenti uses an electronic seal based on a qualified certificate. It’s the most secure form of this kind of guarantee. It can be used to secure documents signed with both regular and qualified electronic signatures.
On top of this, Autenti ensures secure document storage and accessibility for any interested party.
For these reasons, documents signed on the platform count as a durable medium that provides access to unchanged information in the future, just like the electronic signature regulations require.