Are electronic signatures legal across the world? The simplest answer to this question is yes.
There are many countries, 60 to be precise, which have passed laws to make electronic signatures fully legal and admissible by law. These legislations provide e-signatures a solid foundation to stand on.
Without these laws, businesses especially the e-commerce industry which relies heavily on e-signatures and transactions would become unnecessarily difficult.
Signing legal documents electronically has become common these days due to advancements in technology. Some of the countries that have passed laws to make e-signatures such as a PDF signature legally binding are presented below.
Table of Contents
- Electronic Signatures are fully legal in the United States
- Are Electronic Signatures Legal in the UK?
- Virtual Signatures in Canada
- Electronic Signatures in Australia
- Digital signatures in New Zealand
- China and the Russian Federation
- Electronic Signatures in the European Union
- Other Countries with E-Signature Regulations
- Virtual Signature in Latin America
- Electronic signatures are fully legal in other parts of Asia
- Electronic signatures in some African countries
Electronic Signatures are fully legal in the United States
Are electronic signatures legally binding in the United States of America? Thanks to the ESIGN Act, enacted in 200, they are.
In fact, ESIGN was the first-ever act in the history of American that gave legal status to documents and contracts affixed with electronic signatures.
Are Electronic Signatures Legal in the UK?
The rules regarding electronic signatures in the United Kingdom are similar to that of the United States.
In the UK, Electronic Signatures Regulation Act 2002 regulates all online transactions and contracts having e-signatures. Similarly, e-signatures are legally binding in the UK thanks to the 2002 Electronic Communications Act.
Virtual Signatures in Canada
In Canada, the rules regarding electronic signatures are slightly different from what is obtained in the USA and UK. In Canada, both parties must agree to accept the legality of electronic signatures to make the electronically signed document legally binding.
Electronic Signatures in Australia
Apart from signatures related to migration and citizenship, all types of e-signatures are acceptable in the court as proof. The major act regulating e-signatures and online documentation and transactions is the Electronic Transactions Act of 1999.
Digital signatures in New Zealand
Yes, an electronic signature is identified as a legitimate signature under most conditions in New Zealand. When specific statutory conditions are satisfied, electronic signatures are deemed to be equivalent to written signs. The New Zealand law which admitted the security and legitimacy of electronic signatures is named the ETA of 2002.
The ETA also establishes the time at which e-signatures are lawfully necessary even in the case that there is no legitimate requirement for the signatures on a paper. The Electronic Transaction Act of 2002 gives a hypothesis of security to signatures and gives guidelines for when the responsibility for being “as secure as suitable” is reached.
China and the Russian Federation
Are electronic signatures legally binding and enforceable in China and Russia? Yes, they are because of laws like the Electronic Signatures Law of the Republic of China.
However, in China, handwritten signatures are still considered superior to electronic signatures. Similarly, they are not likely to be credible in contracts regarding marriages, inheritance, adaptation, and real estate.
As far as Russia is concerned, contracts don’t need to have handwritten signatures to be legal. They can use e-signatures while signing legal documents. In some cases, they can verbally reach an agreement as well.
Electronic Signatures in the European Union
As mentioned above, electronic signatures are legal in the UK. What about their status in countries that are part of the European Union?
In such countries, all concerned must agree in advance before signing a contract to make e-signatures legally admissible. Electronic Identification and Authentication Services (eIDAS) Regulation is the act that regulates e-signatures in these countries.
Before eIDAS, when a person in France sends a document affixed with an electronic signature to another in Germany, the recipient must thoroughly examine the document and the signature to ensure that it complies with the laws of the two countries.
After validation, the document is deemed safe for use. After the enactment of eIDAS in 2016, specific criteria unified the requirements for electronic signatures all across Europe. This development removed the initial validation protocol. Therefore, the introduction of eIDAS significantly eased the use of electronic signatures within the European continent.
E-signatures in Sweden
Sweden has constitutionally approved electronic signatures since 2000 when the European Union announced the Qualified Electronic Signatures Act. When the eIDAS Law legislated in 2016, these laws were normalized by all the EU member countries.
This involves electronic signatures that are allowed to apply in business environments, though there may be several differences depending on the transaction model. They are also allowed in court.
Online document signing in Finland
Finland constitutionally approved an electronic signature in 2009. After the eIDAS law was established in July 2016, these laws and ordinances were normalized by the European Union (EU) member states. According to this law, e signature is permitted to apply in the majority of industrial environments in Finland.
They’ll normally be regarded as an authorized agreement. This can be by person-to-person agreeing, electronically, or physically confirming the contract. The Act says that electronic agreements can’t be disqualified for being electronic.
Other Countries with E-Signature Regulations
Other notable countries where e-signatures are legal, include Brazil, India, South Korea, Turkey, South Africa, Brazil, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Japan, etc. Similarly, countries like Pakistan, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Malaysia have also adopted some sort of electronic signature legislation.
Virtual Signature in Latin America
Electronic signatures became legal in 2003 under the Federal Commerce code. In Mexico, all digital documents affixed with electronic signatures are legally binding with a few exceptions. Also, the law recognizes two types of signatures, namely standard and advanced electronic signatures. The two signatures are virtually similar except that the advance electronic signature has some additional requirements.
Are electronic signatures legally binding in Peru? Law No. 27269 of Peru lays out the rights of the owner of the digital signature. Signing legal documents digitally is allowed as long as the document meets all the normal requirements of the law.
In Argentina, there is a Digital Signature Law which was sanctioned in 2001. The charter states that when the law requires a legally binding signature, that requirement is also satisfied by a digital signature.
In Brazil, a similar law was passed in 2006, it is Law No. 11.419 of December 19, 2001. The provisions of this law considered electronic signatures as a form of unambiguous identification of the signatory. It stated that in sending petitions, resources, and practice of procedural acts in a generally digital way, the use of electronic signatures would be accepted.
A recent bill in Chile called Law No. 20,217 modified the code of civil procedure as regards electronic signatures. The provision it makes is that an electronic signature has the same probative value that corresponds to a handwritten signature.
The latest law on electronic signature in Colombia is the Decree 2364 of 2012 National Level. The decree states that electronic signatures which allow the identification of a person so long as it is reliable and appropriate with respect to the for which the information is used have legality. That electronic signature will have the same validity and legal effects as a handwritten signature.
Electronic signatures are fully legal in other parts of Asia
Are electronic signatures legal in Asian countries? Yes, they are in parts of Asia. The legal electronic signature example would be Malaysia. The Digital Signature Act of 1997 came into effect in Malaysia on 1st October 1998.
It had the purpose of regulating the use of digital signatures in Malaysia to ensure the security of legal issues related to electronic transactions. In section 65 stipulates the effects of a digital signature and confirms its legality.
In South Korea, The Digital Signature Act was set up first in 1999 and most recently amended in 2008. It was made to establish the basic framework for the system of digital signatures in order to secure the safety and reliability of electronic messages and to aid in promoting their use. The bill ensures the legality of electronic signatures.
Under the Electronic Transactions Ordinance (ETO) in Hong Kong, electronic signatures are stated undeniably to have the same legal status as paper-based signatures. Electronic signatures have been legal in India after the passing of the Information Technology Act in 2000. The law states in part that electronic signatures are legally admissible even in courts. The law also clearly states the mandate by which electronic signatures might be used such as signing documents and filling of forms.
In 2008, Indonesia passed a law called the Electronic information and transactions bill. In this law, the legality of electronic signatures was made clear. And in Taiwan, Article 9 of the Electronic Signatures Act states that the law requires a seal or signature with the consent of the other party. This is can be satisfied by using an electronic signature.
In general, the law in Japan is a hybrid form of other legal systems around the world. The legalization of electronic signatures in Japan occurred in 2000 after the passage of the Electronic Signature and Certification Business Act. This law made the use of electronic signatures acceptable and accessible within the country.
Pakistan is one of the countries that have legalized the use of electronic signatures. The Electronic Transaction Ordinance Act came into existence in 2002, and it dictates the modalities for the use of electronic signatures. The provision has generally eased government processes, although it limits the use of electronic signatures for electronic transactions only. Therefore, the full use of electronic signatures is not entirely in force in the country.
Like its neighbor Pakistan, Indian law recognizes the use of electronic signatures. Such signatures have been acceptable for over two decades. Under the IT Act in the country, two types of electronic signatures are in use, which are Aadhaar and asymmetric cryptosystem signatures. Aadhaar electronic signatures are issued and regulated by the Indian government, while government-certified agencies issue asymmetric cryptosystem electronic signatures. These two types of signatures both have specific basic requirements for validation.
Although the validity of a contract does not depend on the affixation of an electronic or physical signature in Taiwan, the government legalized the use of electronic signatures in 2016. The act allows for the use of such documents as long as the parties involved are in agreement. This makes such documents with such signatures valid in a court of law.
As per Turkish law, a written signature is not certainly needed for a legitimate business contract. Agreements are usually true if constitutionally responsible companies reach an understanding, whether they acknowledge person-to-person, electronically, or by using a paper document. The law verifies that agreements, which have been performed by a reliable electronic signature (QES), will have the equivalent level of legality as those that show a handwritten sign.
Thailand has constitutionally approved electronic signatures since 2001, after the passing of The Electronic Transactions Act. Thailand’s legal model is a tiered one. This means that Qualified Electronic Signatures are recognized as a legitimate type of e-signature. Thai law states that a written signature isn’t perpetually required for an agreement to be deemed reliable and those agreements can’t be rejected for just being electronic. They’ll normally be regarded as authorized.
According to Kazakhstan law, a written signature is not fundamentally needed for a legitimate deal. Agreements are usually correct if constitutionally accountable people arrive at an understanding.
An agreement achieved by the method of transferring electronic documents or electronic information is believed to be in the signed form. To show a legitimate agreement, parties have to give testimony in court. They can produce electronic documents, that are relevant in testimony, under Kazakhstan legislation.
This has to be established to verify the actuality, authenticity, and legitimate recognition of a liability. Therefore, any kind of electronic signature providing these Civil Code conditions should be followed as a written signature.
Electronic signatures in some African countries
In the year 2000, the South African Government established the Electronic Communications Act that legalized the use of electronic signatures in the country. The need to reduce the waste of paper was one of the critical reasons for the legislation. However, the nature and origins of the South African law make validation of electronic or physical signatures to be possible only in a court of law.
Digital signature use has been legal in Nigeria since 2011 under the Evidence Act. In 2015, the country elevated the legal status of electronic signatures as binding appendages on digital documents. The law makes such signatures admissible in a court of law. Also, the law provides that forgery of digital signatures may attract the maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment or a hefty fine of about $27,000.