The use of e-letterboxes still minimal

Companies are obliged to start e-communication as of July, though state authorities are not even fully prepared.

(Source: SME)

Paper letters informing recipients about late payments or court rulings will no longer be sent as of this summer. This is the state’s plan after it created e-letterboxes for thousands of entrepreneurs to receive official mail. The plan, however, seems to be endangered as nearly half of the companies have not yet activated their e-letterbox.

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This is the case despite the massive campaign the state launched last autumn. Moreover, some entrepreneurs warn of the problems they face when activating their e-letterbox, but also low preparedness of state authorities to communicate online.

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“I think the activities to raise awareness and promotion might have been more conspicuous and creative as people often don’t know what to expect from e-letterboxes and what they will achieve,” Peter Kremský, executive director of the Business Alliance of Slovakia (PAS), told The Slovak Spectator. For now, they only know about their duties, which does not motivate them much to activate the e-letterboxes, he added.

Only 51 percent of statutory representatives of firms on which the new rules will apply as of July 1 activated the e-letterboxes by April 3. The National Agency for Network and Electronic Services (NASES) however, will automatically activate the e-letterboxes of all corporate entities residing in Slovakia listed in the business register on July 1, 2017.

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“After this date, the statutory representatives [without eID cards and activated personal security code] will not access official mail sent to an e-letterbox,” Martina Slušná, spokesperson for NASES, told The Slovak Spectator.

This will concern, for example, court decisions, as well as demands for payments.

Campaign helped, but not much

The state originally planned to automatically activate companies’ e-letterboxes as of August 1, 2015, but later postponed the date by one year. This deadline also went unmet, and has been postponed twice: first to January 1, 2017, and most recently to July 1, 2017.

The reason for the postponement was the unpreparedness of the responsible persons for the e-letterboxes (in most cases its statutory representative) to use them. They need to have an ID card with a chip, an electronic signature, a personal security code, as well as a card reader. Moreover, it is necessary to download certain applications to make it possible to use the whole system.

To provide the statutory representatives with more information, the Office of Deputy PM for Investments and Informatisation Peter Pellegrini launched a campaign for €600,000. This included the start of the website, where entrepreneurs can find basic information about the e-letterboxes.

However, the campaign took place only after the deadline was postponed for several times, said Ján Solík of the Association of Young Entrepreneurs of Slovakia.

“The activities informing about the duty to use e-letterboxes were launched relatively late,” Solík told The Slovak Spectator.

The campaign by Pellegrini’s office, however, was not the only one. The Finance Ministry started a similar one at the turn of 2015 and 2016, which cost some €0.5 million. It, however, did not make a big impact, the Sme daily reported.

Read also: E-letterboxes will be used later, again Read more 

Ministry warns of long lines

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry has reached out to statutory representatives via its own channels. Last November, for example, it sent a letter to statutory representatives, reminding them to get an eID card.

“The targeted campaign was successful and especially in the beginning of December the departments issuing the documents reported a significant increase in the number of applications for issuing or activating eID cards submitted by statutory representatives,” the ministry informed, as quoted by the SITA newswire.

Sme wrote that the letters contained the old date for launching the e-communication with the state: January 1, 2017.

Moreover, the ministry sent a short text message to statutory representatives in mid-March, warning them of long waiting lines if they do not request activation of their eID card soon enough. The situation may get worse with the start of the holiday season, it informed in a press release.

Not all state offices use e-communication

Representatives of entrepreneurs in Slovakia, however, point to the difficulties the statutory representatives face when trying to activate their e-letterbox, like the need to have an e-ID, code and a card reader, but also the need to download and install the necessary software, as well as the impossibility to redirect emails to their personal inboxes, Kremský said.

Solík also points to the minimal use of the already activated e-letterboxes. Not only is it complicated to use them, but also the state offices are not prepared to communicate online, he added.

Though NASES says that all state authorities are obliged to communicate electronically as of November 1, 2016, some institutions do not use it.

“The Financial Administration uses its own system, while the health insurers are not even subject to the respective legislation,” Solík said.

Read also: All state offices now communicate online Read more 

NASES prepares changes

Other problems have occurred while using the e-letterboxes. Some users, for example, received emails intended for other people with the same name, the public-service RTVS reported in early March. The case concerned especially court rulings.

Slušná responded to these cases by saying that every owner of a state e-letterbox has a unique identifier based on which the state offices send the mail.

“The system doesn’t allow sending the decisions to someone else’s e-letterbox,” Slušná said, adding that if people received mail not addressed to them, it might have been a human mistake.

The Justice Ministry, meanwhile, confirmed the problems for RTVS, saying that similar errors happen occur when they send ordinary mail. It recommends that people turn to the respective offices if something similar happens.

Ľubor Illek of the non-governmental initiative Slovensko.Digital shares the opinion, saying it is normal that there are errors when sending mail.

“It is important that the providers of the information systems know to respond to them flexibly, communicate with the users and try to improve the quality of services,” Illek told The Slovak Spectator, adding that NASES seems to be taking a good path in this field.

Another problem, to which RTVS pointed, concerned the mail of users who decided to cancel their business licence. After doing so, they lost access to their important documents linked to the business.

Following the critical reports, NASES decided to make it possible for these people to request the relevant documents be sent to their own letterboxes, RTVS informed.

Moreover, NASES is currently preparing other changes to e-letterboxes to make them more user-friendly and add some new functions. The public can comment on the prepared changes until April 5. Subsequently, NASES will evaluate the comments and prepare the list of changes.

“Those picked by the users will subsequently be realised,” Slušná said.

Authenticator a temporary solution

Until recently, it was also problematic for statutory representatives without permanent residence in Slovakia to access the e-letterboxes of companies they manage in Slovakia.

“The foreign statutory representatives are a good example that the system functions improperly even though the duty to use e-letterboxes was originally planned to be introduced already in 2015,” Solík said.

A few weeks ago, there was even no possibility for representatives without permanent residence in Slovakia to access their e-letterboxes. They could only authorise their Slovak colleague to process the electronic mail and hope they would fulfil the duty. This was also one of the reasons why the duty was ranked in the Bureaucratic Nonsense 2016 inquiry, Solík said.

The Interior Ministry thus introduced the so-called alternative authenticator as of March 1 for both foreign and Slovak statutory representatives without permanent residency in Slovakia to allow them to sign in to their e-letterbox.

The foreign statutory representatives need to request the authenticator at the departments of the alien police, while Slovaks can go to one of the nine regional authorities that issue personal documents. They are required to submit an application where they state their personal details, security personal code, as well as the name of the corporate entity and its address.

The authenticators are issued free of charge and are valid for three years. It does not replace any other card issued by the foreigners’ police regarding the stay permission in Slovakia, Alena Koišová of the Interior Ministry’s press department told The Slovak Spectator.

“The situation is better now, but the problem hasn’t been solved yet,” Solík said, explaining that foreign statutory representatives still lack the electronic signature which in fact makes it impossible for them to use the e-letterboxes.

Illek, on the other hand, sees a problem among other groups of people who do not have access to the e-letterboxes or e-Government services, such as people without permanent residence in Slovakia who are not authorised representatives of companies. The Interior Ministry claims that the current solution is only temporary and a permanent authenticator will be introduced after the EU regulations concerning electronic identification will come into force. Yet it has not specified when this will happen.

“The holders of the alternative authenticator can authorise someone else with an electronic signature to use the e-services,” Koišová said.

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