In recent years, The Slovak Government has made some well publicized attempts at digitalising the operation of state and local authorities, its latest push being the activation of official e-mailboxes, forcing all entities registered in the Slovak Business Registry (Commercial Registry) to use these E-mailboxes from July 1st, 2017 onwards.
DOES THE REQUIREMENT TO USE THE E-MAILBOX APPLY TO ME?
The creation of Government E-mailboxes for all citizens of the Slovak Republic over 18 years of age and corporations listed in the Slovak Business Registry is automatic and requires no action on the part of the E-mailbox holder. In fact, most citizens have had their own E-mailbox since 2014 without knowing about it. On the other hand, foreign nationals and other corporate entities are required to lodge an application with the Office of the Government to have an E-mailbox established.
An important distinction must be made between the “Active” and “Passive” state of the E-mailboxes.
As long as a mailbox remains in the “Passive” state, delivery of decisions, opinions and other correspondence from the authorities via the E-mailbox does not produce the legal effects of official service of such documents. Once an E-mailbox is activated, however, the burden of monitoring its contents falls on the holder, as the conditions of official service will usually be met and the legal effects of delivery achieved regardless of the holder’s knowledge (or ignorance) of the actual delivery.
Regardless of a few exceptions (such as notaries), currently, there is no obligation to check and use the E-mailbox for natural persons, associations or NGOs, unless the activation has been specifically requested.
However, any corporate entities listed in the Slovak Business Registry need to be aware of the fact that the official E-mailboxes for these entities were activated on July 1st, 2017 at the latest, unless an activation by logging in had occurred earlier.
The Government is also planning global activation for corporate entities not registered in the Slovak Business Registry as of May 1st, 2018, but this date may (and likely will) be postponed. For natural persons, including entrepreneurs, activation will continue to be voluntary.
DELIVERY WITH LEGALLY BINDING EFFECTS
Holders of activated E-mailboxes can benefit from relatively quick delivery of official correspondence, without the need to sign delivery notices or personally retrieve official messages from the post office. Another trade-off is the impossibility of effectively postponing the delivery. As a practical example, traditionally, some types of court correspondence in Slovakia are considered to be delivered on the day of their actual delivery, confirmed by the addressee’s signature on the notice of delivery, or in a case where the postal service fails to effect a delivery, upon return of the relevant parcel to the court. This may have given the addressee more time to plan for the legally binding effects of delivery: in the case of service to an official E-mailbox, the correspondence will usually be considered as delivered on the fifteenth day following the day of delivery to the addressee’s E-mailbox, unless the addressee confirms earlier delivery by means of a simple digital notice that precedes the principal message.
Bottom line – it is essential to monitor an activated E-mailbox on a regular basis.
HOW TO LOG IN AND MONITOR THE E-MAILBOX
Thus far the only way to access an official E-mailbox is using a chip-enabled ID card issued by the relevant Slovak authorities: a valid citizen’s ID for Slovak nationals, or a chip-enabled residence certificate (ID Card) for non-nationals. In specific cases, special chip-enabled ID cards are issued to non-resident non-nationals serving as statutory representatives (such as directors) of corporations.
The chip embedded in such an ID card holds a digital key to the owner’s official E-mailbox, encrypted so as to only be accessible by means of a six-digit Personal Security Code (“BOK”). Recently, the security of the encryption mechanism has been compromised and in an effort to remedy this the Government temporarily disabled the verification through ID cards until a new encryption key is uploaded onto them, which basically means the holder of such a chip-enabled ID card has to visit an office of the police department responsible for issuing ID cards, a list of which (including office hours) can be found at the website of the Ministry of the Interior under www.minv.sk/?strankove-dni-a-hodiny-na-pracoviskach. Unfortunately, this information is only available on a Slovak version of the website.
In practice, each time a user wishes to log in, they will need a compatible web browser, a SmartCard reader, their ID card, specialised software freely available on Government servers, and the BOK. Once logged in, the user is greeted with a simple interface similar to a webmail client, providing a list of received and sent messages. One of the crucial features provided with the e-mailbox software is the option to set up message forwarding or e-mail notifications of delivery. The option to digitally authorise other e-mailbox holders to access one’s e-mailbox, during extended holidays or permanently, is no less important. Although it may seem a convenient solution, the user experience of the web-based interface is severely lagging behind the standards of the commercially available solutions of today.
PREPARE FOR THE FUTURE OF E-GOVERNMENT
The establishment and involuntary or forced activation of Government E-mailboxes for delivery of documents to selected entities is only the first step of the coming digitalisation effort.
At the moment, the general public in Slovakia remains largely unaffected by mandatory use of official electronic correspondence, which seems unavoidable in the not-too-distant future, however companies domiciled in The Slovak Republic with foreign nationals not residing in Slovakia holding the office of directors will encounter a practical issue, as such persons have to either apply for special chip-enabled ID cards or authorize a holder of a chip-enabled ID card (Slovak national and/or resident foreign national) i.e. an employee or an attorney, to monitor their E-mailboxes.
Jakub Malý is the managing partner at DLMU | attorneys at law.
This article serves general information purposes only.
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