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Electronic signature – what is it and how can you get one in Serbia?

Mar 07, 2018

HBL > Online business > Electronic signature – what is it and how can you get one in Serbia?

A significant progress has been made in the field of electronic business in Serbia by introducing electronic signatures in the field of electronic commerce. E-commerce was introduced to facilitate communication and business with the government, banks, institutions and business partners, with the aim of saving time and reducing expenses.

 

What is a qualified electronic signature?

 

A qualified electronic signature in the Republic of Serbia is regulated and defined by the Law on Electronic Signature. It is a set of data in electronic form, which is associated and logically linked to other digital data with the aim to:

  • Confirm the true identity and authenticity of the person signing the documents,
  • Determine the validity of the signed data and ensure their protection during the transfer,
  • Determine the accuracy of electronic documents,
  • Disable the denial of responsibility on already signed documents.

Simply put, an electronic signature is a digital replacement of a handwritten signature. It is possible to sign the document online or directly on the computer, where it was originally created, using an electronic signature. The signed document (invoice, contract, tax return …) is valid and has the same legal effect as if it was signed and sealed manually on paper.

An electronic signature is a replacement for a personal signature that has always been used in the business, but it is important to note what an e-signature is not:

  • It is not a scanned handwritten signature, because as such it would not be reliable or valid,
  • It is not a digital image of a handwritten signature, but an online signature.

 

An electronic signature can only be a qualified electronic signature if it is created with a qualified electronic certificate

 

In order for an electronic signature to be operational, an electronic certificate, which must be qualified, is required. The electronic certificate is a document which confirms the connection between the data which the electronic signature verifies and the identity of the signatory.

There is a difference between a qualified electronic signature and an electronic signature that is not qualified:

  • the electronic signature confirms the identity of the signatories of the electronic document,
  • a qualified signature guarantees the identity of the signatory, guarantees the integrity (autonomy) of e-documents and prevents the content of these and other documents from being changed.
  • A qualified electronic certificate and a qualified e-signature can be used by:
  • authorized natural persons (of a legal entity) to represent a legal person,
  • natural persons.

 

Where can e-signature be used?

 

A qualified electronic signature is valid and applicable in legal, administrative, judicial and other matters and procedures. It can fully replace the manually certified and signed document (signature and stamp). The electronic signature is most often applied in the following areas:

  • electronic business,
  • electronic commerce,
  • electronic banking,
  • electronic administration,
  • electronic health,
  • payment systems.

Invoices and tax returns can be signed with an e-signature, annual and periodical reports can be submitted, tax cards can be drawn, eGovernment portal can be accessed for the use of state administrative services and much more. Many companies, in order to facilitate business, authorize their accountants to sign and submit reports or tax returns on their behalf. Important note – the final account must be signed with a qualified electronic signature.

 

How do you get a qualified electronic signature?

 

A qualified electronic signature can be obtained exclusively at one of the official certification bodies. It is a legal entity which issues electronic signature to all authorized or natural persons, in accordance with the law. There are five registered certification bodies in Serbia which issue qualified e-signatures:

  • The post office,
  • The Chamber of Commerce of Serbia,
  • The Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Serbia,
  • Halcom,
  • E-Smart Systems.

If the request is submitted to the MIA, it is free of charge. The request is charged in other certification bodies. A qualified electronic signature may be on a chip card issued by the Serbian MIA, it may also be on another chip card, USB flash drive, or disk.

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