The use of technology in business transactions has rapidly grown, and an increasing number of locations accept electronic signatures (e-signatures). Each country has its own rules and regulations that govern the use of e-signatures, and this guide has outlined the general guidelines for e-signatures.
An e-signature (or electronic signature) is a legally recognised way to provide consent or approval on electronic documents. It can replace the traditional handwritten signature, eliminates the cumbersome process of printing, scanning, and sending documents and enables transactions to be conducted remotely.
Adopting e-signatures in your business’ workflow provides many advantages, such as:
Enhanced security – with authorisation controls and identity verification processes and third parties cannot access electronic documents without approval
Easier tracking – as you can see in real-time who opens, signs, or views the document
Faster payments – with the ability to issue invoices and collect remittances
Reduced paper – and printing costs and minimised need for storage space. It is also easier to archive and retrieve.
Improved collaboration – with vendors and partners and reduce delays in transactions
Signed remotely – documents can be signed anywhere, no matter where clients are located and can be easily signed by their mobile phone or tablet.
With e-signatures, you can quickly and easily sign documents from anywhere, anytime, on any internet-connected device.
To ensure that e-signatures are just as valid and enforceable as wet signatures, they must meet the following conditions:
Identify the signatory and their intention to sign the document
As reliable as is appropriate refers to:
The deployment and acceptance of different signing methods vary from region to region. Below we provide an overview of e-signatures in key markets in Asia and the USA.
|Market||Email signing||Jpeg signing||Cloud based platforms||Documents that require a wet signature|
The Electronic Transactions Act of 1999 (Cth) legally recognises e-signatures as long as both parties have given consent to the transaction, indicate the intention to sign the relevant documents and the electronic method used is as reliable as appropriate.
E-signatures are not widely used in Cambodia compared to other countries, however, they are legally valid under Sub-Decree No.246 on Digital Signatures, issued by the Royal Government of Cambodia, which was enacted in 2017 and the Law on Electronic Commerce enacted in 2019.
E-signatures will satisfy the requirements of a signature if the identity and consent of the signatory on the communication can be identified and is reliable according to the characteristic, purpose and circumstance on the communication.
There is no regulation that specifies the acceptance of cloud-based e-signatures.
Cambodian law does not explicitly specify or restrict when electronic signatures can be used.
Government departments will generally only accept wet signatures, particularly incorporation documents and licensing documents
E-signatures in China have been recognised as legally valid since 2004 and is governed by the Electronic Signature Law (ESL). Contracts can be signed electronically as long as the e-signature is identifiable and only controlled by the signatory, and any alterations to the signed documents can be detected. In cases where a third party electronic verification is needed, both parties must provide additional documentation to prove that the contract was signed electronically. If no evidence was provided, it will not be legally recognised under the PRC.
Like email signing and JPEG signing, proof of the signature is required.
Since the Electronic Transactions Ordinance 2000, e-signatures are valid for any document as long as mutually agreed between parties.
For transactions that involve government entities, a recognised digital certificate issued by a certification authority (such as the Hong Kong Post Office) is required. A certified true copy of the document can be used for verification.
E-signatures have been recognised under the Information Technology Act 2000 (IT Act). Contracts are legally valid if two parties come to a written or verbal agreement.
E-signature and digital signature certificates must be issued by a Certifying Authority recognised by the Controller of Certifying Authorities under the IT Act.
E-signatures are legally recognised in Indonesia and are valid and enforceable in two forms, which are certified e-signatures (i.e. evidence) and uncertified e-signatures (i.e. digitalised version of hand-written signature).
An e-signature certified by a registered Indonesian electronic certification operator is recommended.
The platform must be certified by the Indonesian Minister of Communications and Informatics.
No specific restrictions on the types of documents that can be using with an e-signature but corporate documents must be signed with a wet signature.
E-signatures have been legally recognised starting with the enactment of the Digital Signature Act 1997, followed by the Electronic Commerce Act 2006. E-signatures can be used for commercial transactions, HR contracts and consumer agreements.
Contracts cannot be denied enforceability because they are signed electronically.
E-signatures are legally recognised to be equivalent to traditional wet signatures on a written document if evidence can be provided to prove that both parties reached an agreement and the method used is reliable and appropriate.
E-signatures or digital signatures must be issued by a Certifying Authority to be considered legally valid.
The law does not specify any limitation or conditions for using e-signatures with government bodies and documents signed electronically are allowed in government offices.
E-signature must meet the requirements in the Electronic Transactions Act 2010. For an e-signature to be secure, the signature must be safeguarded by a unique certificate from a trusted service provider.
The Singapore government launched Sign with SingPass which enables users to electronically sign documents using a government-created system that fulfils the requirements of a secure e-signature.
Thailand has legalised the use of e-signatures since 2001 and is governed by the Electronic Transactions Act B.E. 2544 (2001) (ETA). A document will not be denied legal effect merely because it is signed electronically.
An e-signature will be valid if the method use is reliable and appropriate to the objectives of the generation, and can independently identify the signatory and his/her approval with the presentation of related evidence.
Under section 31 of the ETA, an e-signature created or used in a foreign country has the same legal effect as e-signatures created or used in the country provided that the system used to create the signature meets the requirements under the ETA.
The signatory’s intent to electronically sign a document is the most important factor of a valid e-signature. Without this, the e-signature may be invalid.
The E-Sign Act provides that e-signatures on documents or contracts should not be denied legal effect because they are signed electronically.
The Vietnamese laws recognise that e-signatures have the same validity as traditional wet signatures and are valid as long as both parties have reached an agreement.
Digital signatures must adhere to the national technology standard for digital signatures set by the Ministry of Information and Communication under National Standard No. TCVN 7635:2007.
For a practical guide on how e-signatures/digital signatures could be used in Vietnam, please see https://vietnam.acclime.com/news-insights/practical-and-commercial-aspects-on-using-e-signatures-in-vietnam/
All in all, for e-signatures to be legally recognised, they must be consented to by both parties and changes to the e-signature and document must be detectable. Even though e-signatures are legally valid across many Asian markets, there are still some documents that require a traditional wet signature, which include corporate documents, wills, power of attorney and documents relating to land.
With many options for e-signatures available in the market, navigating the regulatory environment and finding the signature type and solution that works best for your business across the region can be a challenging task.
At Acclime, we can work with you on hassle-free e-signature deployment for your business across Asian markets, whether it is using our built-in e-signature solution AcclimeSign or other commercial solutions on the market. Our team can advise you on the processes required to have digital signatures validly used for your company’s documentation, for both contracts with third parties as well as corporate governance documents such as director’s minutes and shareholder resolutions.
Disclaimer: This document does not constitute professional advice, whether legal or otherwise, and does not purport to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content hereinbefore.
As a regional corporate services specialist, Acclime helps corporates and private clients seamlessly advance their businesses and interests in difficult-to-navigate markets in Asia and beyond. Our years of in-market experience and deep knowledge helps our clients to avoid pitfalls and make progress faster.