The Use of Electronic Signature in Cyprus During the Coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic has increased the need to conduct non face-to-face business by using electronic means that, nowadays, can be considered as the only way to keep businesses operating and achieve effective communication and transaction closing.

Considering this, the Cypriot government enforced the National Electronic Identity Scheme (the “Scheme”), the first phase of which concerns the acceptability of electronic signature.

Electronic signatures are regulated by the EU Regulation 910/2014 (the “Regulation”) that is in force since July 2016 and was supplemented by Law 55(I)/2018. The Regulation provides for three types of electronic signature: (1) the electronic signature, (2) the advanced electronic signature and (3) the qualified electronic signature.

The Scheme enforces the qualified electronic signature, that has the same effect and validity as a handwritten signature. Please see below for further information.

What is a qualified electronic signature?

According to the Regulation, a qualified electronic signature is issued by a qualified trust service provider, that is included in the EU Trust Service Providers List, i.e. JCC Payments Services Ltd in Cyprus, and it is supported by a qualified electronic signature certificate. This modern form of signature is used on electronic files and documents, such as pdf documents, and has the following characteristics:

  •  it is uniquely linked to the signatory;
  • it is created using means that are in the sole control of the signatory;
  •  it is linked to the signed electronic document in such manner that any subsequent change in the data of such document is detectable; and
  •  it is based on a certificate of qualified electronic signature.

Obtaining a qualified electronic signature

Any physical person, regardless of nationality or country of residence, can obtain a qualified electronic signature, that is enforceable and recognized in Cyprus, by referring to their bank or the national qualified trust service provider. The process for obtaining a qualified electronic signature takes approximately three working days and it is valid for one year from its issuance.

What is a qualified electronic signature used for?

A qualified electronic signature can be used to sign electronic documents with respect to both the public and the private sector including contracts, agreements, applications and any other type of electronic transaction on platforms that support electronic signature.

How is a qualified electronic signature used?

It is possible to use a qualified electronic signature through devices such as personal computer, laptop, smartphone or tablet. However, the signatory must first give authorization (that confirms the authentication of the signature) by using a specific application/portal to which the signatory is given access, by the qualified trust service provider, at the time the qualified electronic signature is issued.

Is a qualified electronic signature safe to use?

When issuing qualified electronic signatures, the qualified trust service providers are strictly bound to comply with safety protocols, regulated at EU level, in order to ensure and verify the security of such electronic signatures. It should be noted that such providers need a special license to issue qualified electronic signatures and are under frequent scrutiny with respect to their compliance with the aforesaid safety protocols.

Please note that the Scheme has not been enforced in Cyprus until very recently and it will take time for this to be widely used.

Our firm will be happy to assist with any questions or requests you may have.