back to article EU will change e-signatures laws to boost electronic invoice usage

The European Commission will revise the E-Signatures Directive in 2011 in a bid to encourage businesses to make more use of electronic invoices. The Directive will be changed to make it easier for electronic signatures from different EU member states to be read, recognised and accepted. The change is one of a number planned …


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  1. Tom 7

    Shuffling the deckchairs on the Titanic.

    We will probably end up with something so complicated as to be unusable.

    A quick definition of about 100 business items in XML should take a student about two weeks but no doubt the software providers will be asked for their input and an address definition will be 25 pages of XML, and an invoice for a bar of chocolate require will take 50 minutes to download on a T2 and require a certain vendors license.

    EDI was rubbish but we've gone downhill since then.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Nah.. I reckon

      ... it'll be something like the member states' governments will each have to host a website where citizens can register their paper signature by drawing it carefully on the screen with their mouse. Then they will get a special personalized url to the image which they can then copy and embed in the word documents they want to sign. Except in the cases of Belgium and Slovenia where the populations' signatures are already held in secure government databases in a form declared suitable in which cases a special plug-in will be required for MS Office to allow the image of the signature to be imported only if the Author field in the document properties matches the name registered. So simple and utterly foolproof! Perhaps it could even be used to print your own identity cards one day.

    2. Jonte Monkey

      EDI was/is rubbish...

      ...but only for certain values of rubbish. It's hard to get right (or expensive to have set up properly) but it is very bandwidth friendly - mainly due to it's pre-internet heritage.

      Also, I'd be interested to see your really simple address definition.

      Things like this appear easy until you get into the gory details (rural addresses, different international address standards, BFPO addresses, etc). Just writing a routine to reliably interpret addresses is non-trivial.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    there was already laws about esignatures?

    ... shows how useful they are then.

    .. and now they are updating them, phew, at long last..

    Really, without those hardworking and selfless people in Brussels i would still be waiting to issue any of hundreds of invoices around europe in the last 10 years.

    As it turns out i sent them anyway and the world did not end and the invoices were paid...remind me what is it that Brussels do for us that we are not able to do ourselves (for less than 40 billion a year)?

  3. Maurice Shakeshaft

    What is the problem that eSignatures wil solve?

    I don't understand what the real problem is here. Can somebody enlighten me, please.

    If it cost effectively solves a business problem or cost effectively opens up future opportunities then that is, possibly, a wise use of TAXPAYER! funds. If not then stop it now, please.

    I'm not interested in supporting State-based "talking shops".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm guessing

      it's so that smaller firms can send their invoices to the bigger ones (and public bodies) electronically in response to goods and services ordered electronically.

      The big boys systems will then credit the little guys account quickly with mininum fuss.

      The alternative being to print off the invoice put it into an envelope and wait for a human to open it, reconcile it against the correct order and flag it for payment.

      At the moment EDI does the goods ordered/goods invoiced thing but is too expensive - I've seen purveyors of EDI quote a mere £20 or so per order processed, which is a bit steep if big customers order items in singles that are valued at a mere £15.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    sounds good to me, lots of upgrade activity will be needed to support it (it will basically be a PKI infrastructure install), $$$ for consultants such as I

    @Maurice, digital signatures can do many things, such as stop spam, or in this case, let customers be certain they have received their invoice from the supplier they thought they did, and that it has not been tampered with. Check wiki for more.

    (that's wikiPEDIA not wikiLEAKS of course)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      for invoices

      but how are they relevant for invoices? if you're proposing that merely signing an invoice would allow you to automatically pay it without bothering to check if it matches something you've ordered then please do give me your companies details...

      if an invoice is signed and matches an order for something, it gets paid

      if an invoice isnt signed but matches an order for something, it gets paid

      if anyone sends an invoice for something i haven't ordered, signed or not, it doesn't get paid!

      if you've got a problem whereby people know what you've ordered and who from and can impersonate your suppliers with correct order numbers etc and incorrect payment details and also block the duplicate genuine invoices your supplier sent (so you don't notice something is up), i suggest you have much bigger problems which a signature isn't going to solve...

      there are advantages to a secure PKI system, but being able to invoice online isn't one of them...

  5. Harry

    Why does an electronic invoice need a signature?

    Did you ever see a *paper* invoice that the sender had bothered to write a signature on?

    Why does an electronic invoice have to be different ?

    What's needed is not a signature, its the legal requirement that every business with more than say 50 employees *must* if so requested send only paperless invoices, and every business with more than 50 employees must send *only* paperless invoices to any other company with more than 50 employees.

    There may be a requirement for electronic signatures on other more security-critical types of document, and widespread mandatory use of electronic signatures on email with automatic checking before delivery might eliminate the bulk of unwanted spam, but electronic invoices shouldn't be the main reason for electronic signatures.

  6. JaitcH

    E-ordering and payment escrow/trust equally important

    The ability to place E-orders - with assured signatures for those with credit facilities with a supplier - is equally important.

    For those placing occasional orders, or for people without established credit facilities, a payment trust / escrow account system is key to doing business. As the last few days have demonstrated, neither the major credit card players, nor the payment facilitators such as PayPal, or even a major Swiss financial player can be trusted.

    Any escrow system must be able to payout providing, at the time the deposit was MADE, both parties to a transaction weren't on any ban list.

  7. heyrick Silver badge

    digital signatures can do many things

    Until the underlying method is compromised, that is...

  8. Clyde


    Have I been acting illegally then by sending PDF invoices by email ?

    Should I report myself to the Serious Organised Crime Squad a la Julian Assange ?

  9. El Richard Thomas

    What's the fucking point?

    No really, what /is/ the point of e-invoicing? Your invoice gets sent and is received by your customer immediately. So what, you still have to wait 30 days (or 90 days if your customer is a really big bastard corporation) for payment.

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