The use of digital signature services instead of digital signature products or electronic signature pads is not only a technological or pricing decision but also one of legal guarantees. The process of each electronic signature pursues the same objective: to collect evidence which is sufficiently robust to confirm and prove the identity of the signer in case of requirement.
Therefore, the choice between a device or a service must be evaluated in the same way as for any other security element: based on an analysis of risks and legal guarantees.
The guarantee of “What you see is what you sign”
In the event of a legal dispute, it is essential to be able to prove that the signer, on one hand saw exactly what he was signing, and on the other hand also knew what he was signing (a concept that is also known as WYSIWYS, What You See Is What You Sign/Get. However, this can only be demonstrated if we combine the following two elements:
- An independent device which visualizes the document in its entirety and allows the signer to interact directly with it. In this case, it is not sufficient to visualize the document in another device such as a PC connected to the digital signature pad, as we must be able to clearly demonstrate that the document being signed is in fact the document we want to sign.
The use of signatures created on electronic signature pads that do not allow the visualization of the entire document may be acceptable in some cases, such as picking up a parcel at the post office or confirming a courier delivery. However, this kind of signature would not be valid for signing a contract or an informed consent, as it would create a vice of consent that would result in the nullity of the legal transaction.
The legal consequences are severe and are almost inevitably derived from what is known as “exceptio schedulae non lectae“ (exception of unread scripture): the defense or countermeasure that is applicable to every signer of a document that has not been read and whose obligations in that contained he is required to comply. This is particularly difficult as it is not just a matter of having a proof of the authorship of the signature (something that can be easily proven by a calligraphy expert), but the practically impossible proof showing that the signer saw what he signed and additionally knew exactly what he signed.
Choosing an electronic signature pad as a solution for a company also entails further technological costs apart from the device itself. Since the pads are peripheral devices that need to be connected via a USB port, a computer near the pad is needed. Those pads will also require the installation of a driver that will most likely need to be kept up to date with the latest driver version.
- The cooperation with a service provider to ensure that the document that was sent for signing, the one that was shown to the signer and the one that was signed in the end, are exactly the same.
The guarantee a company gains by cooperating with a trusted service provider is probably the most valuable from the point of view of safety as it also limits the company’s liability. For example, if you entrust your money to a bank, the bank assumes full responsibility as a custodian and takes all necessary measures to ensure the security of your money. If this bank is robbed, it is the bank that must take appropriate liability.
In the case of digital signatures and electronic signature devices, the guarantee of liability is fundamental. Who assumes responsibility for the process if the device fails or if it turns out that the system is not legally as robust as it was initially sold to you? Liability is an integral part of providing this kind of service and determines its value.
An electronic signature service such as ViDSigner, is committed during the entire duration of the contract and takes also responsibility for the correct functioning of the service by imposing penalties in the event that the service is not available.
With ViDSigner, if there is a legal issue, we accompany our client and support with legal advice as we have legal experts with almost 20 years of experience in the field of electronic signatures in our team. In addition, our service has a civil liability insurance, which covers the specific risks of providing this service with a sum insured of 1,000,000 €.
Conclusions on the use of electronic signature pads
The difference between using a specialized service and purchasing software and a device is the same as the one between storing your money in a safe or in a bank – the liability. Apart from possible legal problems, the decision also directly affects the assumption of hidden costs.
As we have already explained in the blog post about the different types of electronic signatures and their validity, the difference between using a service or a product is not whether it is a valid system, but lies in the varying degrees of legal validity and security they offer. In such an important decision as choosing between a digital signature service and an electronic signature pad for the use in a business or for public service, it is important to weigh the consequences carefully. The decision won’t only affect one specific case, but the entire system and thus the future of the company.
If you are looking for a digital signature solution for your business or service, request more information and we will recommend the solution that best suits your requirements.