Tractis offers free validation of FNMT certificates

es.png As of July 1st, 2016 Tractis offers free validation of FNMT certificates.

In other words, from now on, you can use the certificates of the Fábrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre (FNMT, Spain’s National Mint) in Tractis without having to pay an extra cost for each validation.

With the coming into force of the eIDAS European Regulation, the FNMT is obliged to provide free validation of their certificates to the private sector. At Tractis we have decided to pass on these savings to our customers immediately.

A little bit of background

This change in pricing policy by the FNMT is an announcement of great significance in the history and evolution of electronic certification sector in Spain.

Those who know and follow us know that at Tractis we have been critical and belligerent with the FNMT marketing and pricing policy, as we thought it to be an aberration in the world of electronic certification. Tractis supports 33 Certification Authorities in 14 countries. All charge for issuing certificates but not for their use (validation). The FNMT was the only exception, doing just the opposite: issuing free certificates and, then, charging for their use by the private sector.

In our view, together with the difficulty in the use of the National Electronic ID (DNIe) and an accompanying lack of smart card readers, the mere existence of the FNMT and its pricing policies have been one of the main obstacles to the widespread adoption and use of electronic certification by the private sector in Spain.

The State against the State

In theory, Spain was excellently positioned to become one of the leading countries in the use electronic certificates. It had a large number of certification authorities, experts, projects and, ultimately, abundant know-how. Moreover, Spain was one of the first countries to issue an electronic ID on a massive scale among the general population: The National Electronic ID card (DNIe) issued by the Ministry of the Interior.

In practice, the FNMT, a public company under the Ministry of Finance and Public Administration, offered a competitor to DNIe, which was easier to use, as its software certificates did not require the use of a smart card reader.

How to shoot yourself in the foot

In theory, DNIe and FNMT certificates were different and not comparable products. The former allowed generating qualified electronic signatures of a universal nature, the most powerful available. The latter generated less powerful advanced electronic signatures and were valid only within the realm of Spain’s Treasury

In practice, given the difficult use of  the DNIe and a paucity of readers, and given that the FNMT gave free validation of their certificates for the public sector, the Government went on extending the use of FNMT certificates beyond any advisable measure. FNMT certificates began to be used in situations outside the scope of the Treasury and in cases that should have been reserved for the DNIe (qualified signature).

Everybody’s business is nobody’s business

In practice both products competed for the same market. Notwithstanding this, neither DNIe nor FNMT certificates achieved success in the use of electronic certification by the private sector.

End users, unaware of the FNMT pricing policies, preferred FNMT certificates to DNIe in their dealings with public bodies, as they were less cumbersome (no reader required). From a users’ point of view, both could be used for virtually the same administrative procedures (widespread use of FNMT certificates for interactions with the Public Administration).

The private sector did neither go for the one -difficult to use DNIe- or the other -costly use of FNMT-.

The lost decade

Between theory and practice, time passed away.

Today, 10 years after the introduction of the DNIe and of FNMT pricing policy, and more than 50 million DNIe cards issued, use of the DNIe in the private sector is insignificant and that of FNMT certificates, very small.

DNIe awkward use, the lack of card readers and the FNMT pricing policy created a perfect storm whose result is truly a “lost decade” for the adoption of electronic certification by the private sector in Spain.

A gleam of hope or a train already gone?

The change in the FNMT pricing policy could be a second wind for FNMT certificates in the private sector and, perhaps, the final blow to the DNIe in this market. And this despite of the fact that the FNMT itself only made the change at the last moment and when forced to do so by a European Directive.

In a situation where FNMT certificates are used in practice outside of both the proper realm of the Treasury and that of advanced signatures, the free validation of FNMT certificates for the private sector reinforces the value proposition of the FNMT product, to the greater detriment of the DNIe.

It is also possible that this change comes too late. After 10 years, electronic certificates may have lost their chance for widespread use as a method of authentication and signing in the private sector in Spain in favor of alternative methods.

By David Blanco
Saved in: Announcements, Business, eID | No comments » | 6 July 2016

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