Electronic signature
 

What is an electronic signature and what is it used for?

The electronic signature is a tool used to sign documents in an electronic form. By virtue of the signing of the electronic document the signatory is identified and the information contained in the document is protected against subsequent changes.

An electronic signature may be issued both to natural persons and to legal entities. There are electronic signatures that are intended for specific functions – protection of e-mails, encryption / decryption of information, etc.

 

What are the types of electronic signatures?

The Electronic Document and Electronic Trust Services Act (EDETSA) differentiates the electronic signatures depending on the conditions they meet and their security: electronic signature, transformed electronic signature (TES) and qualified electronic signature (QES).

The widest range of opportunities is offered by the so-called QES, which has the power of a handwritten signature in the relations with other persons. The QES is created using a special device and is connected to a specific tangible carrier (for example, smart-card and special reading device thereto), which prevents any possibility for a person other than the holder to sign with it.

TES meet certain security requirements, but in their case there is no requirement to be created using a specific device from a provider of qualified certification services, and respectively, these signatures may be used with a lower degree of trust.

The TES, as well as all other electronic signatures that are not qualified signatures have the power of a handwritten signature only when this is explicitly agreed to between the correspondents and their area of application is significantly narrower (art. 13, para  4 EDETSA).

 

What is the electronic signature used for?

The QES allows the use of a number of electronic signatures provided by the state administration (for example, registration of a company, entry of circumstances concerning already established company, issuance of current status certificate, filing of project proposal to apply for financial grants under operational programmes, issuance of certificate of criminal record, etc.) and enables electronic exchange of documents with such institutions. As already pointed out the qualified electronic signature has the power of handwritten signature in the relations with all correspondents.

An electronic signature may be used in the relations with other persons and organisations (for example, to conclude an agreement in electronic form, for the issuance of electronic invoice, etc.).

 

The electronic signature may not be used:

  • In transactions in which the law requires a document in a special form – for example, to be notarized, to be in the form of notary deed, to be signed in hand by the parties, to be drawn up in the presence of witnesses or officials, etc.;
  • When the act of holding of the document or a copy thereof has legal power (for example, “bearer” securities, promissory note, etc.).

 

How can you get a qualified electronic signature?

Qualified electronic signature may be issued only by a provider of qualified certification services. In order to get such a signature, you should select an appropriate provider from the Register, kept by the Communications Regulation Commission. An agreement for rendering of certification services is signed with selected provider and after that the signature and the certificate for the qualified electronic signature are created for certain remuneration.

 

Fee

The price for the creation of a QES varies depending on several factors – the provider of electronic certification services, the term for which the QES is issued and the person to whom the QES is issued. The issuance of a QES costs approximately BGN 40 for a term of one year, and approximately BGN 60 for a term of three years. The issuance of a QES to a legal entity for a term of one year costs approximately BGN 75, and for a term of three years – approximately BGN 155 (the prices quoted are indicative and include the smart-card and the reader thereto).

 

When is the validity of a QES suspended and renewed?

Unless otherwise agreed the provider of certification services has the right to suspend the validity of an issued QES for a period of up to 48 hours, if there is reasonable doubt that the validity of the signature should be terminated.

According to art. 26, para 2 of the EDETSA, unless otherwise agreed, the provider of the certification services is obliged to suspend the validity of the qualified electronic signature issued by him for a term of up to 48 hours at the request of:

  • The holder;
  • A person who depending of the circumstances may obviously be aware of breaches to the security of the electronic signature (for example, representative, partner, officer, family member, etc.);
  • Communications Regulation Commission.

The provider of certification services is obliged to notify the holder of the signature forthwith as to the suspended validity.

In accordance with art. 26, para 6 of the EDETSA the validity of the signature is renewed:

  • Upon expiry of the suspension period;
  • Upon elimination of the grounds for the suspension or at the request of the holder, after the provider of certification services, respectively the Communications Regulation Commission, has satisfied themselves that  they have found the reason for the suspension and that the request for the renewal  was made as a consequence of such awareness.

 

When is the validity of the qualified electronic signature terminated?

The validity (effect) of the signature is terminated in the cases set out in art. 27 of the EDETSA. The more important to note cases include:

  • Expiry of the term of validity of the signature;
  • Cases of death or placement under judicial incapacity of the holder;
  • Termination of the legal entity of the holder;
  • Termination of the legal entity of the provider of certification services, when its operations are not transferred to another provider of certification services;
  • Cases when the signature is issued on the grounds of a document that has been declared invalid (personal ID card, passport, etc..).

The provider of electronic certification services is obliged to terminate the effect of the signature at the request of its holder, after they verify the holder’s identity. The provider terminates the validity of the signature also when it is found that the signature was issued on the grounds of untrue data (art. 27, para 2 and para  3 EDETSA).

 

Important to know
Important to know

The use of electronic signature, other than QES, may bring about certain risks related to compromising the information contained in the signed electronic documents, use of the signature by other persons, etc.

 

It should be pointed out that the person using the electronic signature (author) does not always coincide with the person on behalf of whom the statements in the electronic document are made (holder). For example, when a natural person (general manager or another representative of a company) signs a document with the electronic signature of the company, the author is the natural person, but the holder of the statement is the company  and all consequences from the statement contained in the signed document ensue for the company. The situation is similar when a person signs with an electronic signature a document on behalf of another person based on the power of attorney.

 

For more information
For more information

More information is available on the website of the Communications Regulation Commission.

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