Digital Signature in Cyprus
I am frequently asked whether placing a digital signature on a document greats a binding obligation on the parties to an agreement. So i decided to dig deeper into this matter and share with you my findings, the current Cyprus Law and best practise to be followed.
Is a digital signature on a digital document binding?
EU Regulation No. 910/2014 on Electronic Idenfication and Trust Services for Electronic Transactions in the Internal Market (“Regulation on Electronic Transactions”)
Building trust in the online environment is key to economic and social development. Lack of trust especially due to the lack of certainty on the legality of a contract makes everyone hesitate to carry out transactions electronically and adopt new services. On the contrary continuing to use paper and wet ink signatures also means that you have to deal with the filling, administration and GDPR.
The Regulation on Electronic Transactions created the foundations for a digital government and prompted the private sector to adopt the same. As a consequence of the Regulation on Electronic Transactions several matters where provided for, e.g.:
- Website authentication Services
- Cross boarder recognition between national legal systems
- Use of electronic seals by legal persons
- Retention periods of electronic documents
but most importantly that:
This Regulation should establish the principle that an electronic document should not be denied legal effect on the grounds that it is in an electronic form in order to ensure that an electronic transaction will not be rejected only on the grounds that a document is in electronic form
‘electronic signature’ means data in electronic form which is attached to or logically associated with other data in electronic form and which is used by the signatory to sign;
‘electronic document’ means any content stored in electronic form, in particular text or sound, visual or audiovisual
Evidence Law, Chapter 9 of the Laws of Cyprus or in other words how is the Regulation on Electronic Transactions adopted in Cyprus
In accordance with Section 2 of the Evidence Law a ‘document’ anything upon which content, is recorded or imprinted including electronic signatures, electronic seals, electronic time stamps, electronic documents, registered electronic dispatch as these are defined by the Regulation on Electronic Transactions.
Right of the court not to accept a document
In accordance with Section 36 of the Evidence Law the court has discretion, for the purpose of serving justice, having taken all the facts of the case, to reject a document as admissible to evidence.
Δημοκρατία ν. Λ.Λ. κ.α., Αρ. Υπόθεσης: 3621/18, 21/6/2019
Criminal Case whereby defendant was accused of conspiring with others to import in the Republic of Cyprus controlled substances Class B Drug or otherwise almost 5 KGs of Cannabis
The court considered various digital information amongst which:
- Signature on scanner held by couriers
- Recorded Telephone Communication to the call center of the courier service
- Electronic Way Bill of the shipping order
The court ruled that a person may be in possesion of something (drugs) even if that item is not on him
Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus
In the case of ΑΣΤΥΝΟΜΙΚΟΣ ΔΙΕΥΘΥΝΤΗΣ ΛΕΥΚΩΣΙΑΣ ν. ΓΙΑΤΡΟΥ κ.α., Αρ. Υπόθεσης: 23042/2015, 25/7/2019 , a case within a case, to asses the admisability of evidence in the main case, the court considered Article 17 of the Constintution which reads:
Article 17 – Constintution of Cyprus
1. Every person has the right to respect for, and to the secrecy of, his
correspondence and other communication if such other communication is
made through means not prohibited by law.
The rights afforded by Article 17.1 of the Cyprus Constitution extend to any transmistion of thoughs and ideas in whatever medium and accordingly this protection is afforded to telephone calls, electronic messages, fax and other means.
Digital Signature and Digital Commerce
As we have seen above the digital signature and digital commerce is safeguarded under the laws of Cyprus and strictly speaking, the only matter holding back the transposition of business to purely digital is the people and industry themselves.
Working in a digital manner absolutely benefits the business in the long term since it would enjoy the following benefits:
- Easier to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation
- Trackability of documents and process
- Possibility to minimize office space and the workplace
- Possibility to apply encryption and enhanced protection over sensitive information
What other benefits do you see let me know by getting in touch