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Legal signing the electronic way

Legal signing the electronic way

Almost everything would be digital. Were it not for signatures.

Now, all of a sudden, everything is supposed to work digitally. It is certainly true that the COVID-19 crisis has given digitalisation a significant boost over the last few weeks. But for businesses, public authorities and private individuals, getting electronic documents signed in a legally binding way has proven to quite the sticking point. Digital Deals Sign solves this problem in just five minutes.
Florian Maag, Communication Consultant
04 May 2020

Whether it is setting up a home office, expanding a web shop, submitting an online application or ordering home delivery, over the last few weeks during the COVID-19 crisis, students, parents, grandparents, small businesses, big corporations and public authorities have all been trying to keep up with digitisation. But how are you supposed to legally sign a document without scanning, copying or posting it? Beat Steiner, founder of Swisscom subsidiary Ajila, and Roger Wüthrich-Hasenböhler, Chief Digital Officer explain how this can be done with Digital Deals Sign.

It only takes a second to sign a paper document. But everything else associated with it is rather an effort, though – especially when you also have to observe social distancing rules. How can this work online – in just five minutes?

Beat: It works like this: go to https://www.ajila.com/digital-deals-sign/, upload a PDF of the document you want to sign and enter a few personal details and your mobile phone number. You can then sign the document with one click or invite others to sign it in addition. They receive the invitation to sign via e-mail. After confirmation via an SMS code or Mobile ID, the document is legally signed. Check out the video for a quicker and easier explanation.

Does this process register me with the website and save my document there?

Beat: No, registration is not necessary; you also don't have to install any software and the document is not saved.

Which documents and contracts can be signed on the platform?

We offer the two highest levels of electronic signature. Right now, you can sign documents using advanced electronic signature, and we will soon be providing qualified electronic signature as well. Your MobileID is used to verify the signature. It couldn’t be easier. Most contracts in Switzerland are not subject to any formal legal requirements. Using electronic signatures such as the advanced electronic signature, contracts can be concluded in a legally binding manner.

Ajila and Swisscom developed this solution within three weeks – but the problem existed long before. Why did everything suddenly happen so quickly?

Roger Wüthrich-Hasenböhler: Demand and necessity were the chief drivers here and Ajila, in which we have held an interest since December 2019, made a decisive contribution to the fast implementation. But let me explain from the beginning: In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, we began to think together with our subsidiaries about how we could better support Swiss businesses and public authorities in this situation. As you know, Swisscom already provides signature services to banks and Enterprise Customers. For banks, this takes the form of qualified digital signatures with video identification. Thanks to a temporary amendment to the regulations made by the federal government, this possibility can now also be used by other sectors. The demand for this has significantly grown over the last few weeks. We wanted to create the simplest possible access to electronic signatures for private individuals and smaller companies – without requiring any integration into existing processes or IT and without any service contract – and this is where Ajila comes in: It has spent the last 17 years helping companies to digitize forms and make often complex processes digital, more efficient and customer-friendlier in the process. Ajila had heard that administrative work was presenting a hurdle for many companies and that, in particular, signing documents and contracts was being delayed. We didn't have to think too hard to come up with a solution.

Beat: I was convinced that, with our experience, we could quickly get to grips with the implementation. In two weeks, we'd defined the concept, created the first version and launched it on the market. We did this in true start-up mode, with many feedback loops and direct adjustments to the solution. Of course, we also benefited greatly here from the digital signing expertise of Swisscom Trust Services.

Roger, you mentioned that Swisscom also offers other electronic signature services. How does this solution differ from Digital Deals Sign?

Roger: Swisscom Trust Services and Digital Identification & Signing enable qualified electronic signature for higher formal requirements such as opening a new bank account. Digital Deals Sign is aimed at smaller SMEs and private individuals who want to quickly and easily sign documents in a legally binding way without having to fully integrate this step into their processes or conclude service agreements with us.

You've been live for 10 days. Who is using Digital Deals Sign?

Beat: The way we see it, the product is mainly aimed at companies and Swiss public authorities. Private individuals and individual companies can of course also use the service and it's also very easy for them to upload and sign documents on the platform. The product is experiencing a lot of active use and hundreds of documents have already been signed within a short time. We are increasing the number of transactions every day and are already in contact with a handful of companies to implement the solution for them.

How much does it cost to sign a single contract?

Beat: The service can be used free of charge until the end of May 2020. Our goal was to implement something for Swiss companies and SMEs as quickly as possible. Right now, many companies are suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 crisis and we wanted to offer them a free product to begin with. Once the crisis has died down, the product will be available for a fee.

Digital Deals sounds like much more than just signatures. What else can we expect from the platform?

Beat: A lot more! We want Digital Deals to become Switzerland's hub for forms. This would mean we can digitally implement any requirement or business process that relies on data acquisition via forms or paper-based methods. Digital Deals enables companies to increase their closing rates and offer their customers a contemporary digital experience. We – Ajila and Swisscom – are digitising forms for life...

Already-established services for qualified electronic signature

For several years now, Swisscom has been offering major customers such as banks, insurance companies and other service providers two established services for legally valid electronic contracting:

  • · The Signing Service from Swisscom Trust Services is a cloud service for legally valid electronic signing and time stamping documents and files. The electronic signature ensures the integrity and/or authenticity of files vis-à-vis a contractual partner or lawmakers. Signature use cases are supported in accordance with the Swiss Federal Electronic Signature Act (ZertES), the EU Regulation (EIDAS) as well as the Ordinance on Company Accounts (GeBüV). No documents are transmitted for signing, only hash values. More information
  • · The Digital Identification & Signing Service enables an end user to be identified via remote video identification. Once this is complete, they can then sign documents with a qualified electronic signature (QES). In order to do this, the end user requires a video-enabled end device and a valid passport for entry into Switzerland. The video identification takes less than five minutes to complete and the user data is made available digitally after the process. Once digital identification is complete, the user may sign documents electronically. Depending on the business case, you can choose between a qualified or advanced signature, whereby the qualified signature is equivalent to a handwritten signature. More information

Temporary amendment to the Swiss Federal Electronic Signature Act

To electronically sign contracts such as employment contracts or executive board resolutions in a legally binding manner, a qualified electronic signature must be used. Currently, however, this usually requires signatories to appear in person at a registration office and identity themselves. As of 1 April 2020, the Federal Government has temporarily relaxed this regulation. Since then, it has generally been possible for signatories to identify themselves via real-time video link, a process that is already possible in the financial sector. Such an identification must be carried out using a procedure (see Digital Identification above) that fulfils the requirements of the Swiss Anti-Money Laundering Act or one that has been assessed in a member state of the European Union in accordance with the corresponding EU regulation (No. 910/2014). More information

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