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Commission proposes legislation on electronic signatures

The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a Directive which would establish the legal framework for the use of electronic signatures, a joint initiative of Commissioners Martin Bangemann (Telecommunications) and Mario Monti (Single Market). This proposal follows the c...

The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a Directive which would establish the legal framework for the use of electronic signatures, a joint initiative of Commissioners Martin Bangemann (Telecommunications) and Mario Monti (Single Market). This proposal follows the communication of November 1996 on ensuring security and trust in electronic services, and was foreseen under the Action Plan for the Single Market endorsed by the Amsterdam European Council (June 1997). Electronic signatures allow someone who has received data over electronic networks to determine the origin of the data and to verify whether or not the data has been altered. The data is accompanied by a certificate, issued by a certification service provider, which allows the recipient of a message to check the identity of the sender. The aim of this proposal is to ensure security in on-line transactions, in order to encourage more widespread use of, and to stimulate investment in, electronic commerce services. The Commission proposal would also ensure a standardized legal framework in Europe. The main elements of the proposed Directive include: - Essential requirements for electronic signature certificates and certification services; - The establishment of minimum liability rules for service providers; - Legal recognition for electronic signatures in the same manner as hand-written signatures; - A legal framework which would be technologically neutral; - The definition of scope of the legislation to cover only the supply of certificates to the public; - Legal recognition of certification services; - Mechanisms for mutual recognition of certificates to ensure an international dimension.