Europe continues in its march toward digital integration, trying to overcome the operational, bureaucratic, and legal barriers that still exist between different states.
It’s not a simple and immediate process, but it’s one that is well underway.
And, above all, it’s an absolutely necessary, inevitable path. Today, more than ever, business is cross-border, even when it comes to small and medium-sized enterprises.
On this front, a decisive turning point is European Regulation 910/2014 known as eIDAS (electronic IDentification Authentication and Signature), which, in the words of the Agency for Digital Italy, “provides a common regulatory basis for secure electronic interactions between citizens, businesses, and public administrations and increases the security and effectiveness of electronic services and e-business and e-commerce transactions in the European Union.” (agid.gov.it)
Please note: eIDAS has been under review since June 2021. The enforcement of what is now known as eIDAS 2.0 should be imminent.
Within the regulation, a large section is devoted to electronic delivery services.
What does it consist of? What types exist? Where is adoption in the European context? What benefits do electronic delivery services provide and what opportunities do they offer for companies that decide to implement them?
This is what we will look at in the next sections of this post, with a focus on the Spanish and German ecosystems.
European electronic delivery services: definitions and types
According to the eIDAS regulation, electronic delivery services “enable the transmission of data between third parties by electronic means and provide evidence relating to the processing of the data transmitted, including evidence that the data has been sent and received, and protect the data transmitted against the risk of loss, theft damage or unauthorized modification.”
First, we should specify that there are two types, with operational and legal differences that must be kept in mind:
1) ERDS: electronic registered delivery services.
2) QERDS: qualified electronic registered delivery services.
The latter, QERDS, has all the characteristics of ERDSs, but also guarantee certain distinctive requirements, which are of primary importance:
(a) they are provided by one or more qualified trust service providers
(b) they guarantee the identification of the sender with a high level of security
(c) they guarantee the identification of the recipient before data is transmitted
(d) the sending and receiving of data is secured by an advanced electronic signature or advanced electronic seal of a qualified trust service provider in order to exclude the possibility of undetectable changes to the data
(e) any changes to the data that are necessary in order to send or receive it are clearly indicated to the sender and recipient of the data
(f) the date and time of sending and receiving and any changes to the data are indicated by a qualified electronic time stamp
For an in-depth discussion of ERDSs and QERDSs and their differences, see this blog post.
The European context: where do we stand?
While the starting framework for e-delivery services is consistent and well established (pending updates to the eIDAS regulation), the situation for adoption in different EU member states is still extremely varied. Especially when it comes to QERDS-qualified services.
Take a look at this map, with official data, to get an idea.
In Italy, for example, there is still no ERDSs or QERDS service provider.
The reason is very simple: a qualification process is still missing.
And the underlying causes have to do with the wide diffusion of PEC, an all-Italian tool that can, in some respects, be likened to ERDS, but not to QERDS.
This is a tool that, by necessity, will have to go through an evolution that will assimilate it to the European QERDS standards.
(We devoted this blog post to the evolution of PEC toward a European horizon.)
There is also a complete lack of QERDS providers in Denmark and all Scandinavian countries, Greece and Portugal, Romania, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
In contrast, there are as many as 14 in Spain, 7 in France, 5 in Belgium, 3 in Poland, 1 in Germany, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, and Bulgaria.
Beyond these differences, even macroscopic ones, there are two absolute certainties:
1) the path to QERDS adoption throughout the Union is now set;
2) the benefits and opportunities that will arise from the adoption of these services are already very evident.
Before listing the main ones, we’ll take a look at the situation of two of our closest “neighbors” as promised, to the Spanish and German ecosystems.
Electronic delivery services and the Spanish ecosystem
Spain has an economic fabric that is characterized by the strong presence of small and medium-sized enterprises, which make up 99% of the total.
And, more markedly than in the rest of Europe, a large share is made up of so-called “micro-enterprises.”
(The term “micro-enterprise” tends to define a company that has fewer than 10 employees and an annual budget of no more than €2 million.)
This indicates an even more urgent need to optimize everything related to communication and delivery services, to minimize wasted time and reduce costs…all in full compliance.
It is clear, then, how it’s absolutely important for organizations to leverage electronic delivery services.
As we have already seen above, Spain currently has as many as 14 providers of Qualified Electronic Registered Delivery Services.
Among them is Doxee partner Lleida, an industry leader in Spain.
According to its data, switching to electronic delivery services, compared to traditional delivery, saves up to 85% in costs. And the reduction in processing time is even greater.
Electronic delivery services and the German ecosystem
From Spain let’s move on to Germany.
The German economic ecosystem is very different from the Spanish one, but it is also characterized (somewhat like throughout Europe) by a very strong presence of medium-sized, small, and micro-enterprises. These are often characterized by a high rate of productivity and added value, and a good level of openness to the European and international markets.
In Germany, as elsewhere, efficiency means mature digitization. In other words, removal of everything that can result in wasted time and money, a brake on growth, and barriers to cross-border business.
Of course, electronic delivery services are a decisive part of this process, which we could call “holistic.”
In this regard, the German situation is unique.
We’re talking about the De-Mail services, which were introduced with ad hoc regulation in 2011, thus well in advance of even the eIDAS regulation. De-Mail services come under the BSI, the government agency that is responsible for cybersecurity.
See the BSI website to learn more about how they work and their benefits.
The benefits and opportunities of SERC and SERCQ services
Of course, the first and most direct benefits of adopting electronic delivery services concern:
– cost savings
– time savings
– increased efficiency
These are three mutually reinforcing points that require little explanation.
Let’s take one practical example: think about how onerous and inefficient it is to send communications such as reminder reminders, contract documents, terms of service (just to name a few) through paper mail channels. This leads to high costs, increased time to produce and send, and a risk of delays and loss.
With electronic delivery services all of this disappears and becomes simple, immediate, and inexpensive.
But that’s not all.
Then there are the delicate and fundamental benefits related to the security and reliability and integrity of communications.
As well as the full traceability of these same communications, even when they are addressed to multiple recipients.
Therefore, everything on the legal side is fundamental: communications made through electronic delivery services constitute valuable evidence to be used in the event of litigation.
But there are more than just the direct benefits.
Perhaps even more important are the opportunities that are opened up by implementing the best electronic delivery services.
By relying on specialized companies such as Doxee, for example, communications are not only delivered through a Qualified Trusted Service Provider, but can be conveyed through a wide range of channels.
So, not only certified e-mail, but also certified SMS, and the eDelivery tool.
But there is another crucial key word to keep in mind: integration.
Integration of these systems with all the mechanisms and processes that make up the overall functionality of a digitally mature company.
These are aspects that concern, first of all, the customer user experience. Here, the key words are simplicity, speed, transparency.
Not only that: there is also the whole issue that concerns the collection, management, and analysis of data from your communications.
This requires a particularly complex management, since we are talking about multichannel modes.
Leaning on Certified Electronic Delivery tools such as Doxee’s makes it possible to manage this huge amount of processes and related data in a simple and all-encompassing way.
This data, in turn, is something to be exploited in order to improve processes and increasingly refine knowledge of your customer base.
The final step is as follows: improving the knowledge of a company’s customers means having the opportunity to continuously improve your communications, making them more and more tailored to the recipients, thus increasingly effective and personalized.
In short: everything can fit together in a virtuous circle. Savings in time and money. Improved security and reliability. Compliance with European standards that are becoming increasingly defined. Legal value. Surgical collection of data. Improved communication. The benefits are enormous; and the view is always win-win, for companies and their customers.