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New postal era beckons as official documents go electronic

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New postal era beckons as official documents go electronic
Photo: A screenshot of De-Mail registration at GMX.
10:50 CEST+02:00
Major German email providers are readying themselves for the new De-Mail system that will let users send letters and documents over the web that are just as legally binding as printed material delivered by post.

The aim is to banish the need to use printed pages for sensitive material such as letters and documents to lawyers, banks and government officials. The system will be secure and carry the same legal weight as printed documents.

Deutsche Telekom announced Tuesday it was taking registrations. Customers with @t-online.de email addresses can sign up – initially for free, though registration will likely cost money eventually.

In recent weeks, email providers GMX and Web.de, both part of the German web firm United Internet, began taking registrations.

And Deutsche Post is set on Wednesday to launch its E-Postbrief system.

De-Mail will not come into full use, however until 2011. First, the lower house of parliament, or Bundestag, has to pass a law compelling users to register and prove their identities to prevent false or malicious documents being sent – or real documents being received by users intent on committing fraud.

Reinhard Clemens, head of T-Systems, which is Deutsche Telekom's IT division, estimated up to 10 billion letters currently being sent by post each year could be switched to De-Mail. The system could also replace certified mail, whereby the recipient has to sign to receive the document.

He said the system would be a particular boon for business customers.

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