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The Signicat Blog
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Portrait of Adam Walhout
Adam Walhout

Head of Marketing SMBOC

How to sign an EU tender bid without a pen and stay compliant

Nobody will thank you for signing an EU tender bid in ink. In fact you are strongly advised (and often required) to use a Qualified Electronic Signature. Here’s why, and how to solve it.

Humans have spent quite some time throughout history learning to trust each other. Secret passwords, drinking together, joint financial investments and taking care of each other's children. But when it comes to trusting a document, like a tender bid for instance, only one thing holds more power than the signature: knowing exactly who you are dealing with.

It’s mind blowing actually, that just a little scribble on a piece of paper still in many places is believed to be the ultimate proof of a person's will. It worked well in a world where you were likely to actually meet the people you made deals with. But now “Jens Jensen” could be anyone other than the name behind your scribble. People can easily forge a signature. A long time ago, when not “everyone” knew how to write, even just an X was enough. Very easy to copy, right? Today - if you’ve never met the people who signed the contract, how would you ever know?

Some electronic signatures on the other hand provide a way of signing where you actually can know. And not just know, but also detect any change done to the document since it was signed, and even click on the name on the dotted line and immediately see if their identity is verified or not! However, not all electronic signatures are created equal.

# 5 reasons to sign tender bids with Dokobit

  1. Qualified Electronic Signatures: The gold standard of electronic signatures.

  2. Signature with reason: State your intention.

  3. Audit trail: Track all actions done in the signing process.

  4. Accountless: The receiver doesn’t need a Dokobit account to read the document.

  5. Tenders made easy: Streamlined signing of tender bid documents.

# Why do Qualified Electronic Signatures matter to tender bids?

Tenders exist to create trust that deals are won in a fair way. Based on quality and price, in accordance with rules and regulations. As opposed to a corrupt way, among friends, not up to code and at a rigged artificially high price, where nobody knows where the money actually ends up. This happens. And regulations are enforced to deal with it. Actually complying with those regulations matters as companies on both sides of the table are obligated to prove they have jumped through all the hoops. And there are a lot of hoops! All of which is to prove that those who issued the tender actually award the contract to the best bidder. And, that the bid is up to snuff.

All of this starts with knowing exactly who signed it. In other words, it really matters that you prove with whom they are dealing with. Contracts in the hundreds of millions need the highest level of assurance about the identities of the people involved, qualified electronic signatures deliver that assurance. Enabling also reliable checks against verifiable information about your company, who their real owners are etc.

Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES) are just as legally binding as a written signature, only better. They have the same level of non-repudiation in court, meaning the signer can't deny participation. Or, if they did - the burden of proof would be on them to prove that they somehow didn’t. Furthermore, they also have a secure data integrity that lets you detect unauthorised changes to the document. You can actually see if it has been tampered with. They have a special encrypted certificate, magically hidden behind all the names representing the company on the bid. The certificate is issued by a governmentally vetted trust service provider using special hardware operated by especially trained people.

In a world where digital transactions are the norm that replaces actually showing up, this is the type of digital signature you – and everyone else – can make sure a real and responsible person is at the other end of your deal.

# So, what do you care? You’re not corrupt and not a criminal. You’re just trying to sign the “damn thing”

Ok, so your company would love to win that tender bid, right? Your team has worked for months on the magnificent job they plan to do, in order to really persuade the company on the other end – possibly in another city or country. There are millions of euros involved, people working overtime, sweating over details. Why all the hassle?

If you submit a tender bid, you might be required by law to use QES. In some European countries they’re already mandatory.

– You should always use the highest level of electronic signatures, just to be on the safe side. Norway doesn't require you to use them yet, but many countries do, says Jon Ølnes, a product manager at the Norwegian based trust service provider Signicat which is a government approved digital vetting agent, and a company who makes people trust each other without seeing each other.

– In Europe the highest level of electronic signature is called QES or Qualified Electronic Signatures, says Ølnes who has over 25 years of experience in working with eID and digital signatures.

# How does a signature qualify as qualified?

In order to make a qualified electronic signature Signicat gathers information from the person needed to be identified via supportive systems like the Norwegian BankID, Baltic Smart-ID, Belgian itsme or other types of digital identifying systems they officially use in different countries.

– And if the person doesn't have an eID at all?

– Then we record a video of their face, before we scan their passports or national identity cards by another video sequence. The videos are examined by both automated, AI-based systems and specially trained human operators to ensure that the person in front of the camera is the person identified by the identity document, Jon Ølnes says. 

# Dokobit by Signicat - Electronic document signing as an everyday service

Dokobit is an easy place for you to upload your tender bid, ask for a QES – and Signicat will take care of the whole process.

– We gather the information, seal the names with certificates and then you could send your documents to any company or person across Europe. Your tender bid will then be just as legal as a paper with a written signature on it, and you are able to always see the audit trail, if anything changes, someone has viewed the document or signed it for example, Jon Ølnes says and pauses for a second.

– You know, in our industry we say: “What you see is what you sign” and Dokobit just makes sure the whole signing process is extremely streamlined, user friendly, controlled, safe, trusted and easy! And last but not least, everything will be legally correct and you could win your bid anywhere.