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EU Consults On E-signatures For E-commerce

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

22 February 2011

In order to tackle low levels of consumer and business confidence in online transactions, the European Commission (EC) has begun a consultation with interested parties on how electronic signatures, electronic identification (eID) and authentication can help the development of the European Digital Single Market.

Currently, it is said, difficulties in verifying people's identities and signatures are a significant factor holding back the development of the European Union’s online economy. Electronic signatures, eID and authentication can be an important tool to enable both users and providers to rely on secure, trustworthy and easy-to-use online services, but must work in all member states to be effective.

Everyone is invited to participate in the consultation by sharing their views on how electronic identification, authentication and signatures can contribute to deliver the European Digital Single Market and on possible measures to create optimal conditions to stimulate its progress.

Amongst other things, the public consultation seeks feedback on the general usefulness of e-signatures and eID, user and specific business sector needs, socio-economic benefits, fields of application, potential additional trust-building services (e.g. time stamping), mobile usage and the legal recognition of electronic consent by clicking "I accept".

The EC will ask the ICT sector's view on how e-signatures can be best tailored to face the forthcoming challenges triggered by technological progress. Interested parties are also being asked to express their views on existing barriers, security requirements, potential grading of security levels, and expectations on standardisation.

The consultation runs until April 15, 2011, and its results will feed into the EC's review of the existing E-signature Directive and the preparation of a planned initiative on the mutual recognition of electronic identification and authentication. Boosting e-commerce, e-business, and making it easier to undertake administrative procedures online in the Single Market are important aspects of the Digital Agenda for Europe.

Neelie Kroes, the EC’s Vice President for the Digital Agenda, said: "I welcome everybody's views on how we can best verify people's identities and signatures when we buy, sell or undertake administrative procedures online that need to be highly secure. I want to help all Europeans get online without feeling that they will fall victim to data frauds or scams."

The EC is already supporting a large scale pilot project called ‘STORK’ to enable cross-border recognition of eID systems and easy access to public services in 18 European countries That project aims to enable EU citizens to prove their identity and use national electronic identity systems (such as passwords, identity cards and mobile phones) throughout the EU, not just in their home country.

A comprehensive report in our Intelligence Report series examining the new possibilities that offshore e-commerce open up for business, and analysing the offshore jurisdictions that have led the way in offering professional e-commerce regimes for international business, with a particular focus on e-gaming, is available in the Lowtax Library at and a description of the report can be seen at
TAGS: business | European Commission | commerce | law | offshore e-commerce | offshore | internet | e-commerce | regulation | European Union (EU) | Europe

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