Understanding the validity of electronic signatures around the world

In today’s globalised world, most organisations have a presence or at least have business dealings with an organisation in another country. Together with the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating digitalization and the adoption of electronic signatures, many are asking the question if electronic signatures are accepted as legally binding in countries around the world.

The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), the core legal body of the United Nations system in the field of international trade law, established the Model Law on Electronic Commerce (MLEC) in 1996 and Model Law on Electronic Signatures (MLES) in 2001 with the aim to enable and facilitate a common framework for the legal acceptance of electronic signatures internationally.

Till date, the UNCITRAL MLES has been adopted in 36 States: https://uncitral.un.org/en/texts/ecommerce/modellaw/electronic_signatures/status.

Besides the 36 States, the table below provides a brief overview of the legal acceptance of electronic signatures in ASEAN and some notable countries around the world.

CountryElectronic Signature Law / RegulationYear First EnactedDistinction for certificate-based digital signatures?Explicitly mentioned exclusions
United StatesElectronic Signatures In Global And National Commerce Act (ESIGN ACT)

 

Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA)

2000No1.      wills, codicils, or testamentary trusts

2.      adoption, divorce, or other matters of family law

3.      court orders or notices, or official court documents

4.      cancellation or termination notices relating to utility services, health insurance or life insurance benefits

5.      default, acceleration, repossession, foreclosure, or eviction, or the right to cure notices under a credit agreement or rental agreement of an individual

6.      notice of product recall that risks endangering health or safety

7.      documents required to accompany any transportation or handling of hazardous, toxic or dangerous materials

European UnioneIDAS2014Yes – “advanced electronic signature”,  “qualified electronic signature”Refer to local law
AustraliaElectronic Transactions Act1999NoRefer to local state/territorial law.
South AfricaElectronic Communications Act2002Yes – “advanced electronic signature”1.      wills, codicils

2.      contracts for the sale of, rights in, and long-term leases of immovable property

3.      bills of exchange

ChinaElectronic Signature Law2004Yes – “reliable electronic signature”1.      documents relating to such personal relations as marriage, adoption and succession

2.      documents relating to the transfer of the rights and interests residing in such real estate as land and houses

3.      documents relating to termination of such public utility services

Hong KongElectronic Transactions Ordinance2000Yes – “digital signature”1.      wills, codicils, trusts, power of attorney

2.      any instrument which is required to be stamped or endorsed under the Stamp Duty Ordinance (Cap. 117)

3.      government conditions of grant and Government leases

4.      any deed, conveyance or other document or instrument in writing, judgments, and lis pendens referred to in the Land Registration Ordinance (Cap. 128)

5.      any assignment, mortgage or legal charge within the meaning of the Conveyancing and Property Ordinance (Cap. 219) or any other contract relating to or effecting the disposition of immovable property or an interest in immovable property

6.      documents effecting a floating charge referred to in section 2A of the Land Registration Ordinance (Cap. 128)

7.      oaths and affidavits

8.      statutory declaration

9.      judgements or court orders

10.   warrants issued by a court or a magistrate

11.   negotiable instruments

IndiaInformation Technology Act2000Yes – “secure electronic signature”1.      negotiable instrument (other than a cheque)

2.      wills, trusts, power of attorney

3.      contracts for the sale or conveyance of immovable property

SingaporeElectronic Transactions Act1998Yes – “secure electronic signature”1.      wills, indenture, trusts, power of attorney

2.      contracts regarding the sale or disposition of immovable property

3.      conveyance of or transfer of any interest in immovable property

MalaysiaElectronic Commerce Act2006Yes – “digital signature” DSA 19971.      wills, codicils, trusts, power of attorney

2.      negotiable instruments

CambodiaLaw on Electronic Commerce2019Yes – Sub-Decree No.246 on Digital Signatures 20171.      wills, codicils, power of attorney

2.      contracts regarding the sale, transfer or disposition of immovable property

BruneiElectronic Transactions Act2008Yes – “secure electronic signature”1.      legal instruments

2.      wills, trusts, power of attorney

3.      negotiable instruments

4.      contracts regarding the sale, transfer or disposition and titles of immovable property

IndonesiaElectronic Information and Transactions

 

Government Regulation 71 of 2019 on the Application of Electronic Systems and Transactions

2008Yes – “’certified’ electronic signatures”1.      certificates that under Laws must be made in writing form, such as tradeable securities or exchanges

2.      certificates together with their papers that under Laws must be made in notary deed or deed made by land conveyances

LaosLaw on Electronic Transactions

 

Law on Electronic Signature

2012

 

 

 

2018

Yes – “basic digital signature”, “secure digital signature”1.      wills, power of attorney

2.      birth, marriage, divorce and death certificates

3.      contracts regarding the sale, transfer or disposition and titles of immovable property

4.      petitions

5.      bills of exchange, bills of lading, warehouse receipts or any document that entitles the bearer or beneficiary to claim the delivery of goods

MyanmarElectronic Transactions Law2004No – electronic signature is defined as a digital signature1.      wills, trust, power of attorney

2.      negotiable instruments

3.      title documents

4.      legal instruments

PhilippinesElectronic Commerce Act2000Yes – “digital signature” – REE 2001No specified restrictions
ThailandElectronic Transactions Act2001Yes – “reliable electronic signature”1.      Civil and commercial transactions, e.g. wills, marriage registration, child registration etc.
VietnamLaw on E-Transactions2005

 

Yes – “digital signature” Decree 130/2018/ND-CP1.      certificates of land use rights, house ownership right and immovable properties

2.      inheritance documents, marriage certificates, divorce decisions, birth certificates, death certificates

3.      bills of exchange and other valuable papers

Netrust is a Singapore accredited Certification Authority providing digital identity that meets the requirements for a “secure electronic signature” under Singapore’s Electronic Transactions Act. Netrust offers nSign, a digital signing solution suite, to cater to the different signing requirements. Contact us for a consultation.

Follow us on LinkedIn for the latest happenings/updates.

DISCLAIMER: The information on this page is solely for information purposes only and is not intended to serve as legal advice. It is recommended that you seek guidance from your legal counsel with regard to the law applying specifically to you. Netrust does not accept liability for the contents of these materials or for third parties materials.