Internet start-up UK Smart has struck a deal with the Post Office to distribute free digital signature technology and certification services to consumers nationwide.
Digital signatures are now recognised as legally admissible in court. UK Smart claims to be the first company to offer digital signatures that are endorsed by a trusted third party as well as being available free to consumers.
Simon Cook, CEO of UK Smart says the initiative will put to rest consumer fears about privacy and fraud over the Internet. "It will also reduce the cost to businesses considerably, as it will mean consumers will be able to complete and sign mortgages and insurance applications online, creating a truly paper less society.”
Together, the Post Office and UK Smart are stepping into territory long considered a natural extension of the banking business, entailing the delivery of trust-based and transactional services to consumer markets
Initially UK Smart's services will include secure e-mail, secure payment systems allowing consumers to shop online without credit cards, and online legal and insurance documents utilising digital signature technology.
When the service is launched to consumers later this year, people will be able to pick up a free CD Rom from one of 12,000 post offices across the UK or order the software from the UK Smart Web site. Once installed onto a PC, the consumer will be asked to go through a series of online checks with Royal Mail ViaCode, after which they will be issued with a free digital signature to use with UK Smart services. Consumers may also apply in person for a digital signature at post offices around the country.
Founded in December 1999, UK Smart has received £20 million in start-up funding from Elderstreet Capital Partners, Insight Capital and a consortium of private investors including Philip Green and Scottish entrepreneur Tom Hunter, founder of Sports Division. Michael Jackson, chairman of The Sage Group and Elderstreet Capital Partners, joins the UK Smart Board as chairman. Roel Pieper, managing director of Insight Capital Europe, joins as non-executive director of the business. UK Smart CEO is Elderstreet partner Simon Cook.