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  • E-signatures and digital certificates​

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  • Introduction

This guide explains:

  • what an e-signature is, and how it can be used in electronic correspondence
  • how to check the validity of the e-signature and what your obligations are as a signatory
  • displaying digital certificates and how to check their validity
 
This guide does not apply to the following transactions:

  • bonds
  • those connected with personal affairs such as marriage
  • any document that is required by law to be notarised by a public notary.
  • What are e-signatures?

An e-signature may consist of letters, marks, symbols, numbers, sounds or images.
 
It is used in electronic messages to identify the signatory (the sender) and distinguish them from anyone else.
 
An e-signature also proves that the message received is the same message that was sent by the signatory and that nothing has been added, deleted or amended.
  • What are digital certificates?

To create an e-signature you need an electronic signature (e-signature) creation device (see glossary) and, in order to be authorised to use this device, you must obtain a digital certificate.
 
Digital certificates are issued by certification services providers and confirm the identity of the signature device holder.
 
Please also see our guide to digital certification service providers.
  • The use of e-signatures

You may use an e-signature and digital certification:

  • if the law requires you to do so on a particular document
  • so long as you are not prohibited to do so by law
 
Protected e-signatures
An e-signature is attached to the electronic message and may be considered to be protected if:

  • the identity of the user of the e-signature can be proved
  • only one person uses it
  • it is under that person’s complete control at the time it is used
 
However, the e-signature will be altered if the electronic message is altered, and will not be considered protected.
 
Legal validity
An e-signature:

  • is as legally binding as a signature written by hand
  • may be used to prove payment of debts and, if a debt is paid electronically, the creditor’s e-signature acknowledging receipt of the payment will discharge the debtor’s liability
  • Validity of e-signatures

To ensure that an e-signature is valid, you must make sure that:

  • it is important – legally permissible – for an e-signature to be used for that transaction
  • the e-signature is supported by a correct and valid digital certificate
  • the e-signature, or digital certificate, has not been cancelled or its use breached​
  • The duties of the signatory

If you are a signatory, you must:

  • not use the e-signature creation device illegally
  • immediately notify the people concerned if the credibility of the e-signature creation device is in doubt
  • ensure that the information in the digital certificate is accurate and valid​
  • Foreign signatures and certificates

You may rely on foreign e-signatures and digital certificates as long as:

  • the foreign certification provider has equally reliable standards as those in the UAE, and
  • the conditions that must be met for a foreign certificate to be issued are similar to those that must be met for a certificate to be issued in the UAE
 
If you agree to use a specific certification service provider or a specific type of foreign digital certificate, this agreement will be considered to be binding.​
  • Displaying digital certificates

You may display a digital certificate to verify an e-signature that has been used prior to suspension or cancellation of the certificate.
 
However, you must not display a digital certificate that contains the certification service provider’s name if:

  • the service provider named on the certificate has not issued the certificate
  • the person named as the signatory on the certificate has refused to accept the certificate
  • the digital certificate has been cancelled or suspended​
  • Validity of digital certificates

You may only rely on a digital certificate being valid if:

  • you can confirm the identity of the certification services provider
  • you can confirm that the e-signature creation device, referred to in the certificate, was under the control of the certification services provider up to the date that the digital certificate was issued
  • any restrictions on the use of the e-signature creation device or digital certificate are specified
  • the period and extent of responsibility of the certification services provider is specified​
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