Due to the Corona crisis, it can be more difficult to sign all kinds of documents (letters, agreements, etc.) on paper, especially when a document requires the signature of several people.
As a result, it often happens that a scanned version of the signature is used, which is then pasted into the document. Although this is, in principle, a valid way to sign a document, it can still give rise to discussions.
It’s therefore recommended to work with a so-called "qualified electronic signature". An electronic signature of this kind (and only this version) has exactly the same value as a handwritten signature. It can easily be applied via several (free) programs (see below).
Are there different types of electronic signatures?
There are three types of electronic signatures: ordinary, advanced and qualified electronic signatures.
In practice, the ordinary electronic signature is the most common. An e-mail signature or the scan of a handwritten signature is an ordinary electronic signature. This version offers insufficient guarantees about who signed the document, however, and whether or not the document has been modified after signing.
The advanced electronic signature is already a solution to this problem. This kind of signature is specifically and uniquely linked to the signatory, and provides the possibility of identifying the signatory. It is placed after entering a password or PIN code.
A qualified electronic signature is a variant of the advanced electronic signature. If an advanced electronic signature is issued based on a qualified certificate, you have a qualified electronic signature. The link between the signatory and the applied signature is verified by a recognised certification authority.
Does every electronic signature have the same value as a handwritten signature?
No, only a qualified electronic signature is considered to be legally equivalent to a handwritten signature.
Do I always have to use the qualified electronic signature?
It’s recommended to always use a qualified electronic signature for contracts and other important documents. For other, more mundane documents, such as e-mails, a "normal" electronic signature suffices. However, it’s also possible to digitally sign e-mails using the e-ID.
Isn't signing via a qualified electronic signature cumbersome?
No, there is a certificate on everyone's identity card that allows documents to be signed in a simple, qualified electronic way.
This also requires the downloading of a certain software (https://eid.belgium.be/nl), as well as having a card reader and knowing the PIN code of the electronic identity card.
You then need to work with a program that allows you to sign a document electronically. The Adobe Acrobat Reader programme, which can be downloaded free from the Internet, is an example of this.
If you still have questions about this, or if you wish to start signing documents electronically in a correct and safe way, please don’t hesitate to contact Defensis Law Firm. We have developed a practical manual and will be pleased to advise you.
It goes without saying that a personal appointment can take place safely and completely online (our entire case management has been digital for years).
Defensis Law Firm
Olivier Kerkhofs Julie Vander Elst
+32 (0)2 892 60 73 (direct) +32 (0)2 892 60 82 (direct)
+32 (0)2 892 60 70 (administration)