Use of the cpim designation in the signature

Types and uses of the digital signature

Of editorial staff, April 15, 2015

The article was updated on March 27, 2019.

In our first part of the series, we took a closer look at the technology of the digital signature. Today, the focus is on their types and possible applications.

According to public procurement law, there are three types of electronic signature: the text form, the advanced and the qualified electronic signature.

The text form

In some companies it is customary to put the scanned image of the boss's signature under a letter that is sent by e-mail. According to procurement law, this is already a signature in text form. The text, the so-called signature, at the end of an e-mail also meets the criteria of text form according to Section 126 b of the German Civil Code (BGB). It is important: The text form must be legible on a durable medium such as e-mail or paper. One could now assume that electronic storage media such as USB sticks or CD-ROMs are then also allowed for award procedures. However, this is not the case. Second problem with the text form: The signature can be copied and used by anyone at any time, for example in the imprint of the e-mail. This has the disadvantage that anyone can pretend to be that person.


e-tendering in focus

  • Access to digital tender documents
  • The security of e-procurement
  • The electronic submission of offers
Here's the guide

The advanced electronic signature

In contrast to the text form, the advanced electronic signature is created with a unique signature key. The signature must be assigned to a signature key holder who can be clearly identified. It is also important that the signer has sole control over the creation of the signature. Should a subsequent change be made to the data, it must be possible to recognize this. The advanced electronic signature can be generated and used by means of a stick, a chip card or a software certificate.

The qualified electronic signature

Only the qualified electronic signature is legally equivalent to a handwritten signature to a large extent. However, it does not apply if the law requires an actual manual signature, for example when terminating an employment relationship or notarial certification. Several components are required for the creation: a chip card, a suitable chip card reader, the associated software and a qualified certificate to confirm the identity of the signatory. Entering the PIN code in the card reader activates the card and creates the signature. This type of digital signature alone enables legally effective proof that the document actually originates from the signer and has not been tampered with. The PIN code and the reader should be handled very sensitively and neither should be passed on to another person. After all, you don't give the PIN code of your EC card to anyone else.

Areas of application of the digital signature

The digital signature can already be used in many areas of public life.

  • electronic invoicing
  • e-procurement
  • Waste detection procedure
  • Emissions trading
  • Dunning requests
  • electronic tax return
  • secure email traffic
  • Online query of the pension account

Read more about the electronic signature on our corresponding topic page in the portal.