Are digital signatures legally accepted?
As more people prefer to do transactions digitally, organizations are also adopting digital solutions that will make these processes easier. Combined with the work from home phenomenon, this trend has strengthened the need for digital signatures. But some people may not be entirely sure about the validity of digital and electronic signatures in their country. If you need a refresher on the differences between electronic and digital signatures, head here.
Now, let us look at some legislations covering digital signatures in the Asia-Pacific. For a comprehensive list of countries in the APAC region, click here.
Vietnam’s Law on E-transactions
Majority of Vietnamese businesses and organizations are using e-signatures and digital signatures. The country recognizes these solutions as having the same admissibility and enforceability as wet ink signatures given that it satisfies two conditions: first, the creation of the signature identifies the principal and indicates approval of the corresponding document; and second, the method of obtaining the signature is reliable.
Vietnam’s Law on E-transactions stipulates the requirements for digital signatures to be considered valid. This involves the digital certificates to be checked by public keys; or created using a private key corresponding to a public key recorded and with certificates granted by certification authorities; and that the private key is under the sole control of the signer at the time of signing.
Australia’s Electronic Transactions Act
Australia is known as an open and business-friendly country in terms of electronic signatures. The Electronic Transactions Act of 1999 allows a wide range of documents to be signed with electronic signatures – such as procurement documents, employment contracts, and human resource documents, sales quotes and contracts, license agreements, real estate documents and other business files.
An important aspect of the Australian Law is verifying the origin of the electronic signature and ensuring that no alterations are made upon signing the document. This brings us to the significance of security in electronic signing, including the use of passwords, encryptions, and certificates to maximize the protection of the principal’s credentials.
Hong Kong’s Electronic Transactions Ordinance
Under Hong Kong’s Electronic Transaction Ordinance of 2000 (updated in 2004), contracts cannot be denied of admissibility and enforceability because they are signed electronically, therefore giving e-signatures the same legal status as their wet-ink counterparts. Like other countries, electronic signatures can be used in a wide array of documents, including consumer agreements, HR documents, commercial agreements, transfers and filing of intellectual property, and other files.
There are essential requirements for electronic signatures to be considered: an electronic message attached to the signature; a reliable signature process; and the recipient consented to the signatory using a digital signature. This raises the importance of a secure system by which electronic signatures are made, best fulfilled through additional security features provided by digital signatures.
The Philippines’ Electronic Commerce Act
The three prerequisites necessary to confirm the validity of contracts in the Philippines: consent of parties; subject matter of the contract; and established cause of obligations. The country’s Electronic Commerce Act was enacted to make electronic contracting admissible and enforceable. This legislation allows parties to use electronic signatures to create valid contracts, given various premises such as the method of signing is non-alterable, the other party can verify the authenticity of digital signature, and the method of signing is reliable.
Electronic signatures are recognized as having the same validity as paper-based signing. These are primarily used in eCommerce transactions, including purchase orders, invoices, sales agreements, service agreements, and NDAs. Electronic signatures can also be used on consumer agreements, property transfers and HR documents.
Thailand’s Electronic Transaction Act
In Thailand, the use of electronic signatures is under the Electronic Transactions Act of 2001. The law recognizes digital signatures as equivalent to wet signatures given two premises: the method used to sign is reliable – linked and under the control of the signatory and no other person, with the signatory attesting to the completeness and integrity of information; that the method used to sign can identify the signatory; and that post-signing alteration is detectable. While not specifying the technology to be used in electronic signatures, it is significant for these to be highly secured. Digital signatures are widely used in both public entities and private businesses in Thailand.
Singapore’s Electronic Transactions Act
Passed in 1998 and amended in 2020, Singapore’s Electronic Transactions Act considers electronic signatures as valid and admissible in court. The use of e-signatures is considered appropriate in documents such as employment contracts and other HR documents, NDAs, licensing agreements, consumer contracts, commercial agreements, and other general business documents.
Digital signatures are categorized as secure electronic signatures given two premises: the signature must be created with an operating digital certificate that is valid and makes reference to the public key; and second, the digital certificate is issued by an accredited certifying authority and provides the highest tier of security as stipulated under the eIDAS Regulation.
A common theme in these seven legislations across the Asia Pacific region is that there is a strong emergence in the validity and enforceability of electronic signatures in transactions and other legal documents. This also highlights the importance of security in the process of signing, thus raising the significance of digital signatures.
Is your country not on the list? Click here if you want to learn more about your country’s law regarding digital signatures in a nutshell.