Stadler RAIL loses billions in contracts due to e-signature problem

Electronic signatures were supposed to simplify business transactions, but Swiss company Stadler may have lost a €43 billion contract due to a technicality.

Electronic signatures were supposed to simplify business transactions, but Swiss company Stadler may have lost a €43 billion contract due to a technicality.
The large order from the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) for 186 double-decker trains was won by Stadler after a comprehensive and professionally managed bidding process. But unfortunately nothing came of this (for the time being), because the Austrian Federal Administrative Court declared the contract award null and void on September 10.

The reason: Stadler signed the tender with the Swiss version of a Qualified Electronic Signature (QES), which is not recognized by the EU and Austria.
ÖBB spokesman Bernhard Rieder says they are currently reviewing the next steps. “Either we file an appeal against the ruling – or we roll up the whole award process again.” Stadler Rail, in turn, announced that it would continue to fight for the contract. It said it had already used electronic signatures hundreds of times when participating in tenders in the EU region. “Stadler will exhaust all legal remedies to which it is entitled against this first-instance decision of the Austrian Federal Administrative Court,” it added.

The background is:
– Switzerland and the EU use different digital signatures that are not mutually recognized. To date, there is no agreement between Switzerland and Austria on the recognition of digital signatures, as the Federal Office of Justice explains.

– The validity of digital signatures in Switzerland is regulated by the Federal Law on Certification Services in the Field of Electronic Signatures (ZertES) and by the Ordinance on Certification Services in the Field of Electronic Signatures (VZertES). The Swiss Code of Obligations (OR) provides in Art. 14 para. 2 bis or Art. 59a for an equal treatment of ZertES-compliant electronic signature and handwritten signature in the area of legal formal requirements as well as a liability of the owner of the signing key for the careful handling of the key. In the EU, the eIDAS regulation governs the use of digital signatures.

– A significant difference to the regulation in the EU Signature Directive is that the recognition of the respective certification service by a recognition body is a prerequisite for the legal effect of the aforementioned mandatory standards. This recognition body is accredited by the Swiss Accreditation Service. In Switzerland, therefore, the legally compliant electronic signature of a recognized certification service is required, whereas in the EU only a legally compliant signature is required and accreditation thus remains voluntary. The recognition is a confirmation that the certification service meets the requirements of the law.

More information on the Swiss Qualified eSignature can be found in our FAQs: https://rockondigital.ch/haeufig-gestellte-fragen-faq/?lang=de

Sources: