To define the concept of “Electronic Delivery Services,” it’s helpful to refer to the legislative context that defines it from a regulatory and operational perspective.
We’re referring to the European Regulation 910/2014 known as eIDAS (electronic IDentification Authentication and Signature), with its most recent updates, which are the focus of this article from our blog.
According to the eIDAS Regulation, electronic delivery services enable the electronic transmission of data between third parties and provide evidence related to the processing of the transmitted data, including evidence that the data has been sent and received, and protect the transmitted data from the risk of loss, theft ,damage or unauthorized modification.
Beware, however, of a fundamental specification: the eIDAS regulation identifies two forms of electronic delivery services:
1) ERDS: electronic registered delivery services
2) QERDS: qualified electronic registered delivery services
We’ll dig into the differences between these two types of services in the next section.
Then, we’ll look at the Italian PEC, an increasingly widespread and much utilized tool; we will ask: how does PEC fit into the larger European picture?
And what are the cases and scenarios where it is useful and beneficial to use ERDS or QERDS?
Finally, we will devote a final section to the opportunity that electronic delivery services open up for businesses and professionals, beyond the obligations and fulfillments.
We’ll address each step by step.
ERDS or QERDS: what are the differences?
Let’s go back to the eIDAS regulation: the articles involving electronic registered delivery services (ERDS) and qualified electronic registered delivery services (QERDS) are articles 43 and 44.
We will not reproduce the regulations in full (you can consult them here), but simply quote the passages that focus on the requirements fulfilled by qualified electronic registered delivery services (QERDS) and the requirements that distinguish them from ERDSs. In summary, they:
(a) are provided by one or more qualified trust service providers;
(b) guarantee the identification of the sender with a high level of security;
(c) guarantee the identification of the recipient before data transmission;
(d) secure the sending and receiving of data by an advanced electronic signature or advanced electronic seal of a qualified trust service provider in order to exclude the possibility of undetectable changes in the data;
(e) clearly indicate any changes to the data in order to send or receive them to the sender and recipient of the data;
(f) indicate the date and time of sending and receiving and any changes to the data by qualified electronic time stamping.
In short, a central point for qualified electronic registered delivery services (QERDS) is certainty regarding the identities of sender and receiver, and the ‘joint use of an advanced electronic signature (or an electronic seal).
All of which is guaranteed by a qualified Trust Service Provider.
How does PEC fit into this picture?
PEC, first of all, is an Italian tool that was developed before the eIDAS regulation was issued and which does not fully meet the requirements defined by European legislation. It’s a tool that – by necessity – will have to go through a path of evolution.
This is what we’ll talk about in the next section.
The all-Italian case of PEC
PEC (Certified Electronic Mail) is a tool we are all familiar with and has now become part of our daily lives.
According to the latest available data, there are more than 14 million active PEC addresses in Italy (agid.gov.it).
The surge in the use of PEC has been very sharp, especially in recent years; a decisive acceleration in this regard occurred in the emergency period triggered by the pandemic.
This acceleration was not an isolated case, but part of a trend that involved other implementations related to dematerialization and digitization (think, for example, of the case of SPID).
In addition, PEC is also currently used as a Digital Domicile (and, remember, as of October 1, 2020, it is mandatory for businesses and professionals to communicate their Digital Domicile).
As we have mentioned, however, PEC is unique to Italy. Its inclusion in the context of European electronic delivery services is not yet optimal.
Indeed, PEC lacks many of the features identified by the European legislature for certified electronic delivery services and qualified certified delivery. For example, PEC does not allow for the identification of the sender and recipient of the communication, nor does it require a qualified time validation.
Most importantly, PEC is only valid in Italy and not in Europe. Moreover, communications via PEC have full legal value only if they take place between two mailboxes, both of which are certified electronic mailboxes.
However, the process of evolving PEC (resulting in an update of the ETSI standards) has already begun so that it can meet the European requirements for qualified certified electronic delivery services.
This path, of course, cannot be instantaneous and it requires a process that is not immune to legislative and technological issues.
(Learn more about the evolution of PEC and what is often referred to as “European PEC” in this post from our blog.)
Now, beyond future scenarios, let’s understand the benefits for taking advantage of SERC and SERCQ systems.
The benefits of using ERDS and QERDS
Let’s get straight to the point.
The first and most intuitive benefits of using electronic registered delivery services are related to security and reliability.
From this point of view, the legal factors are fundamental: communications made through electronic delivery services constitute valuable evidence to be used in the event of litigation. Therefore, they represent a useful tool for obtaining full traceability of communications and notifications that have been sent, even when these communications are addressed to multiple recipients.
We are talking about extremely sensitive aspects that include a series of very important consequences.
But that’s not all.
By relying on specialized companies like Doxee, communications are not only delivered through a Qualified Trusted Service Provider, they can also be conveyed through a wide range of channels.
Not only registered email, but also registered SMS (with the benefits in terms of familiarity by recipients, simplicity, and immediacy: all with full traceability of transactions on the sender’s side).
Then there is the eDelivery tool, which allows the delivery and opening of documents to be certified by issuing documentary evidence.
In this case, the recipient receives a certified email or text message containing an access link to the documents intended for him or her. This step makes it possible to collect and track the recipient’s intention to access confidential documents through a personalized link.
And here is a key theme and one that is crucial to keep in mind at all times: personalization.
Not just obligations and security – the opportunities of electronic delivery services
The primary objectives of introducing electronic delivery services at the European level are in the areas of security and reliability of communications, transparency, and legal value in litigation.
All of this is critical.
But we can go even further and look at the opportunities, which are equally decisive for businesses.
These aspects have to do, first of all, with the customer user experience; here, the key words are: simplicity, speed, and transparency.
Not only that: there is also the vast issue that has to do with collecting, managing, and analyzing the data of your communications.
Managing this information is particularly complex, since we are talking about information coming from multiple channels.
Leaning on Certified Electronic Delivery tools provided by companies like Doxee makes it possible to manage this huge amount of processes and related data in a simple and all-encompassing way.
This data, in turn, turns into a resource to be exploited in order to improve one’s processes and increasingly refine the knowledge of your customer base.
The final step is this: improving your knowledge of your customers means having the ability to continually improve your communications, making them more and more tailored to the recipients, and thus increasingly effective.
This is the turning point of personalization that we mentioned.
In short: everything is connected in a virtuous circle. Improved safety and reliability. Compliance with European standards that are increasingly being defined. Legal value. Improved communication (or, rather, different communications). The benefits are enormous; and the optics are win-win, for companies and their customers.