Data boxes: official notices in the digital revolution

The new Act 300/2008 Coll., on Electronic Actions and Authorized Document Conversion, also known as the „Electronic Actions Act,“ is set to take effect as of July 1, 2009. The Electronic Actions Act will reduce the number of notices served by personal delivery, simplifying communication between citizens and public authority bodies – hopefully saving a few trees too.

At the same time, the new act obliges all legal entities and company branch offices registered in the Commercial Register to ensure that there is a computer with an Internet connection in the entity’s office and to check their data box regularly.

Until now, most formal communication between state authorities has been in paper form. Electronic communications have only been accepted if they bear a guaranteed electronic signature. This will change from July 1, 2009, when all state authorities – from governmental offices, municipal offices, health insurance companies and broadcaster Česká televize to state funds – shall be obliged to communicate electronically with each other, and with certain private sector entities and individuals, by using official data boxes.

By the end of September, the Ministry of the Interior will have set up a data box for every legal entity and branch office registered in the Commercial Register. Other legal entities, individual entrepreneurs and ordinary citizens can apply to the Ministry for their own data box, which will be set up within three days of submitting the application. However, the Electronic Actions Act does not provide for the private sector entities and individuals to use their data boxes to communicate with each other – only with state authorities.

Efficiency and security

Notices will no longer need to be printed, signed and taken to the recipient’s office or post office. They can be now sent securely and electronically from any computer, with the same significance as a traditional hand-delivered notice, but much more quickly and easily.

Public authority bodies will now be obliged to correspond electronically with all entities that have established a data box. The Civil Procedure Act has been amended to take this into account, and will now specify the correct priority order that the court must use when attempting to deliver correspondence to an entity. First, the court must attempt to deliver correspondence during hearings or other court actions, but if this is not possible, the court must deliver correspondence to the data box. If delivery to the data box is not possible (e.g. the recipient is an individual for whom no data box has been set up), then the court will deliver correspondence to the physical or e-mail address provided by the recipient during the proceedings. As a last resort, the court will physically deliver correspondence to the registered permanent residence of an individual or the registered office of an entity.

Under the Electronic Actions Act, a data box may only be accessed by the person for whom it has been created or a representative appointed by that person for this purpose. Access to a legal entity’s data box will be provided to the entity’s statutory body or its members, who may then authorize other individuals to access the data box. The data box username and password will be delivered to the user by registered mail immediately after the data box has been set up. The data box is activated after the authorized user first logs in to the data box system. Automatic activation will take place if there is no login within 15 days after the data box has been set up.

The entire data box system (the Informative System of Data Boxes) will work in a secure and guaranteed way. Any messages sent from a data box shall be provided with a time stamp and electronic mark (which is analogous to a guaranteed electronic signature), with all attachments time-stamped and marked accordingly. The system will then deliver the message to its recipient and generate a delivery confirmation informing the sender whether the message was delivered and when it was read. However, the data box system will only use the same security level as ordinary e-mail, since only the username and password are required to access a data box. Other requirements, technical conditions and security principles shall be governed by a special decree from the Ministry of the Interior, which has not yet been issued.

Documents sent to a data box are legally deemed delivered as soon as the authorized user logs in, after which point it will be assumed that the recipient has become familiar with the document. A document will be deemed to have been delivered and received by the recipient 10 days after it was sent, even if the user has not accessed the data box, unless the law expressly specifies that presumption of delivery does not apply, for example, in the event of the delivery of a summons to a preliminary hearing or the delivery of a payment order in accordance with the Civil Procedure Act.

The delivery of documents to a data box through the public data network is considered to be a type of personal delivery. Legal entities and individuals alike should activate their data boxes as soon as they receive the login details and check for updates on a regular basis. This will help to avoid any unpleasant surprises – obligations arising from legitimate governmental decisions left unread in an overflowing data box.

This article was originally published by journal Czech Business Weekly. Author: Markéta Tvrdá is an advocate at the Prague office of international law firm Lovells.