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The simple electronic signature

The simple electronic signature
Thomas Choukroun

Thomas Choukroun

Content Manager @Yousign

Illustration: Léa Coiffey

An electronic signature is a compromise between ease-of-use and security. A simple e-signature is the first level of security and legal recognition of a document.

Digitisation is now prevalent in companies on a day-to-day basis. In this respect, 2020 was most certainly a watershed year: many employees started to work remotely as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. People's day-to-day working processes had to be transposed into digital format so as not to disrupt the smooth running of companies. One of the primary innovations that the workplace has seen is the electronic signature. It enables companies to undertake important administrative processes without the need for the people concerned to be physically present. Furthermore, it enables significant savings in terms of time and resources, so that these can be used for more useful things. There are three types of electronic signature. They differ in terms of their characteristics and the business processes for which they are appropriate. Here, we are going to discuss the simple electronic signature and its specific features.

Simple and smart

As its name suggests, one of the defining features of the simple electronic signature is its simplicity: first and foremost, it is easy and straightforward to use. Not all the employees of a given company have a sophisticated understanding of new digital tools – far from it. So it is all the more essential to have electronic signature forms that are easy-to-use by everyone – even by those employees who have the least expertise in new technologies or who make a fuss about having to use them. Using this simple signature could even be a first step towards getting them to make greater use of digital applications. Needless to say, it is exactly this simplicity that limits the evidentiary legal value of a simple electronic signature, so it is not appropriate for certain types of document.

There is no precise definition of the legal requirements regarding simple electronic signatures. This means that a document can be signed in just a few clicks, without there being any properly defined process for this purpose. So since the identity of the signatory cannot be verified, they could theoretically deny ever having signed the document. The evidentiary legal value of a simple electronic signature is therefore more or less comparable to that of a scanned signature. There are, however, ways of bolstering the legal value of a simple electronic signature and of adding additional layers of security: Yousign, for example, uses an authentication system that involves sending a code by SMS. This is comparable to the systems used by banks for online transactions.

The simple electronic signature in the event of a dispute

What happens when a contract signed using a simple electronic signature is disputed? In such cases, it is useful to be able to turn to the dossier of evidence – the audit trail – in which the signatory's email address and telephone number are kept, for example. Although compiling an audit trail is not mandatory for simple electronic signatures, doing so proves extremely useful in the event of a dispute: it makes it easier to prove the authenticity of the signature and can also be used to identify the signatory unambiguously.

Yousign works with Arkhinéo on providing additional guarantees to make evidence more secure. Arkhinéo specialises in archiving security dossiers, which is therefore a good basis for an additional layer of protection for evidence files. Documents such as confidentiality agreements, quotes, property insurance contracts, service contracts, permanent employment contracts and many others can be signed using a simple electronic signature in complete confidence. You will find a more comprehensive list of such documents in Yousign’s article about the three levels of electronic signature.

What benefits does the simple electronic signature have?

As we said earlier, simple electronic signatures are similar to scan signatures. However, there are a few differences which make simple electronic signatures preferable to scanned signatures. Their primary benefit is certainly time savings: employees no longer have to undertake time-consuming tasks, such as creating documents, printing them out, signing and scanning them before emailing them to other contracting parties. All these resources can therefore be put towards other tasks that have greater value for the company. With Yousign’s modern, digital and secure solution, documents can be sent quickly and easily from person A to person B, they are then securely archived on European servers, and they have significantly more evidentiary value before a court than would a scanned signature. The verification systems that Yousign has introduced for this purpose have the last names and first names of the signatory, their email address, the IP address used and an accurate timestamp – so much so that even the simplest form of electronic signature can easily be technically replayed before the court.

The security risk of the signature being reproduced is eliminated – which is not possible with the scanned version. Indeed, it is not that difficult to cut out a signature from a digitalised document and then paste it into another document. But an electronic signature created by Yousign, of any level, is unique and cannot be copied. Yousign also goes to great lengths to ensure that the application is user-friendly, easy and intuitive to use by everyone – not just experienced users. All companies can therefore leverage all the benefits of using Yousign and can expect to see both their internal and external processes simplified. To sum up, computerisation can also be justified when it comes to signing documents – because of the time savings it generates, but also for security reasons: electronic signatures have an extra layer of security compared with written ones.

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