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Identification on the Internet

Whenever it comes to digital investments or business via the Internet, the Postident process has proven to be the perfect way of identification.

As the name suggests, Deutsche Post AG plays a central role in this process and serves as an authentication authority. In other words, employees at a postal branch document the presence of a valid identity document and thus the identity of the submitting person. Postident was established under the German Money Laundering Act and has proven its worth ever since.

How does Postident work?

If you open an account at a bank branch, you must identify yourself in this context. So far, so understandable.

In the meantime, however, accounts no longer only exist at the local bank, but basically any bank that is licensed for the German market can be considered as the account-holding bank.

The problem, however, is that direct and personal contact is no longer possible or often fails due to distance. In order to remedy this, a so-called impersonal legitimacy check is required, which is called a Postident for the sake of simplicity.

The procedure is not only used by banks, but also within the framework of the Signature Act, for example when concluding a mobile phone contract or signing an important document. It serves as security for both sides of a contract.

What types of Postident exist?

In earlier years, Postident was mainly carried out directly in post offices. In the meantime, it has also become possible for delivery staff to take on this task and check and document the recipient’s identity when handing over a letter. In addition, there is a Postident App that works with the online ID function.

In the event that it is not possible to make an appointment in person at a postal branch, Postident can also be used via video chat or an electronic identity card can be used. It should be noted that only the identity card or passport is recognised as an official document, while the driving licence is not accepted.

Persons with a foreign passport can of course also take part in Postident, although it is advisable to clarify acceptance in advance with both the post office and the bank.  In a test by an independent testing institute, Postident was certified a high level of security. The error rate is 1.1 percent.

Which companies use Postident?

Companies that use Postident are mainly banks but also providers of mobile phone contracts or financial service providers. The procedure is ultimately always the same and consists of a concluded contract with Deutsche Post AG. Each company receives a customer number and can therefore be clearly identified.

If Postident is to be used, the company will use its own coupons in which certain customer data has already been prefilled. A signature must be made on a sheet of paper, which is compared with the one on the identity documents shown. At the same time as the customer’s documents are submitted (usually an application to open an account), the company or bank receives the customer’s identification.

Postident is offered in most “real” post offices. However, the offer is somewhat more incomplete at branches in supermarkets or in the retail trade and the so-called DHL shops. Those who do not go to a traditional post office should find out beforehand whether the procedure is accepted or not.

Postident is currently not offered abroad, but it is no problem that the procedure is used by foreign companies offering their products and services on the German market.

Alternatives to Postident

If you have sufficient technical equipment, you may decide to replace Postident with the VideoIdent process.

The advantage is that no printed documents are required and there is no need to go to a post office or interact with an employee.

In this procedure, the ID card is identified by video and a TAN is sent. As soon as this is used, the identification is complete. The video chat is on the advance, but is not yet offered nationwide.

How long is Postident valid?

The coupons issued for the purpose of Postident are usually valid indefinitely.

In some cases, however, the barcodes to be scanned will have a built-in expiration date, so Postident must be completed within a certain period of time.

Postident and data protection

Postident attaches great importance to data protection. It is always the case that the data must be stored.

However, the storage period is a maximum of three months and the data remains solely with Swiss Post or may only be passed on to the contractual partner (bank, etc.). Each time Postident is used, an order data processing contract is concluded with Swiss Post at the same time.

If a digital signature is used, the provisions of the eIDAS Regulation of the European Union shall apply. This ensures that an electronic signature is legally equivalent to a handwritten signature. Deutsche Post is verified and in a position to verify and accept digital signatures.

An advantage of the digital signature is the effect on up to five documents, so that this process is a lot more time-saving. The assignment of a unique hash value, which is validated by a signature verification key, ensures security. In court, a digital signature can be used in its entirety as evidence.

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