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Thursday, 19 July, 2001, 06:29 GMT 07:29 UK
Digital signature becomes law
Two surfers PA
Security fears are slowing the use of e-signatures
Electronic signatures are now as legally binding as hand-written ones.

A European Commission directive came into force on Thursday, legally recognising the digital signature for the first time.

These signatures can be used for signing contracts on e-mail and will make business much more efficient, speeding up transactions around the world.

It could also mean that consumers will, for example, be able to buy a house over the internet.

Security fears

But security remains the biggest worry for businesses. Fears over security are the biggest obstacle to the growth of e-commerce, according to some experts.

Almost all 15 member states of the European Union have met the target of implementing the EU Digital Signature Directive.

Similar legislation had already been in operation in the US for about nine months.

And many firms are already using digital signatures.

Technology experts claim that it is more difficult to forge an electronic signature than a hand-written one.

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See also:

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