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Row erupts over ‘illegal’ UK email invoicing

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A UK industry group has slammed "untrue and misleading" warnings from an "opportunistic" ebusiness firm that claims it is now illegal for British business to transmit invoices by email.

The row erupted after electronic invoicing outfit Global Invoice Corporation sent out a starkly worded statement claiming that: "From January 1, 2004, no business in Britain will be able to send and receive invoices by standard email. "

The Geneva-based company blamed the end of email invoicing on substantial changes arising from an EU Directive, which was created to improve ebusiness security and efficiency by allowing invoices in emails only if authenticated by digital signatures.

However, the Business Application Software Developers Association (BASDA) dismisses the claims as cynical scaremongering designed to promote Global Invoice Corporation's electronic invoicing service.

"This opportunistic firm has been talking about Europe-wide legislation," Dennis Keeling, chief executive of BASDA, told The Register . "But in the UK, after a lot of discussion with ourselves and others the government has decided to leave things as they are.

"This is a completely untrue and misleading statement from an opportunistic organisation which is hoping to sell a service that charges a fee for every invoice it handles for its customers."

According to BASDA, the UK Government has taken the "sensible course of opting out of some of the more contentious aspects of the EU e-invoicing directive. Consequently UK companies will be able to continue to send invoices electronically by email without the need for digital signatures.

However, the association conceded that there may be "some problems" in the rest of Europe where other governments have adopted the directive in its entirety.

To prove its assertions BASDA released the text of the following "definitive" email which states that HM Customs and Excise will continue to accept email invoices: "Our view is that Digital Signatures Certificates may be used by businesses if they so wish, but that this is first and foremost a business decision, not one that should be dictated by government caprice - viz. HM Customs and Excise does not intend to impose the use of digital signatures/certificates for the B2B transmission of electronic (eg XML) VAT invoices on UK business." ®

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