Could collecting digital signatures provide a new revenue stream for posts?

Matej Šesták, CEO of Axepto

An inside look at the opportunities that new EU legislation presents in enabling posts to generate additional revenue by collecting digital signatures from customers.

Postal operators have accepted the fact that the decline of mail services is irreversible. The digital world is more accessible, efficient, convenient, and paper is lagging behind. The question now is how quickly will mail volumes continue to fall and is there anything that can offset losses?

Not everything from the paper world is obsolete. Take the handwritten signature for example. It is still has a great deal of value in today’s world, whether it’s an autograph from a sports star or a signature to seal a business deal. It will take a while until a mouse click, or other consent alternatives, catch up with it. The process is so customary that any visible signature made directly into a document represents greater commitment than a click on something online.

In the business world, there are still several B2C companies that need an end customer signature to finalize their sales cycle. The signature represents something that sufficiently proves, or expresses the end customer’s will. It’s something that respective authorities accept and recognize, and not only in cases where a handwritten signature is expressly required. But this often implies that the customer needs to personally visit the store, which significantly increases the risk of losing the expensively won lead since the client may decide against showing up.

Yet in countries such as the Slovakia or the Czech Republic, the service of collecting signatures for the legal documents of telecom operators, financial services and energy suppliers, generates a significant amount of income for postal operators. For corporations that have transformed their offerings into e-shops, the ability to acquire and deliver signatures for legally binding documents provides a useful tool in implementing their ‘paperless’ strategy.

Nevertheless, using paper brings certain disadvantages. Some financial services contracts may be 100 pages long and the risk of error, loss or damage caused by the carrier is high. Also companies incur significant costs sorting, scanning, transporting, and archiving printed contracts. Hence it’s more logical to digitize contracts to minimize costs and keep them at an economically acceptable level.

But how can companies work with e-signatures in a way where they are as equally binding as an ink signature? The solution, at least for EU nations, is coming soon. As of July 1, 2016, the Regulation (EU) No 910/2014 (eIDAS) comes into force. It is part of the European Commission’s strategic agenda called a Digital Single Market. At first glance, the regulation may appear to predominantly benefit cross-border shipping, by allowing the electronic identification practices of one country to be recognized by all other member states. Essentially this will harmonize legislation regarding electronic signatures but it may also offer new possibilities to offset the decline in mail services.

The regulation states that no electronic signature can be refused because it was performed digitally, and hence, in the case that a court challenges it, an investigation of its form and how it was collected will be conducted. There will be three types of signatures, namely: electronic signature, advanced electronic signature, and qualified electronic signature. The advanced electronic signature offers the best ratio between acceptance, implementation difficulty level and validity.

Solutions that acquire enhanced electronic signatures are becoming commonplace in retail outlets and there’s no reason why postal operators cannot use tablets or other mobile devices to collect such signatures and become innovative service providers.

For institutions such as banks and other corporations eager to grow their e-shops, an end customer who provides their signature in front of a carrier using a tablet solution is far more valuable than an end customer who expresses their consent using their home PC. So while the digitization of services is currently causing many postal operators to lose their jobs, it could soon become a great opportunity for their own digital transformation by creating new offerings in various fields, such as collecting signatures for e-government services.

Originally published on June 22nd, 2016 at Postal Technology International