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Part 2: Signing in to the digital age

See Part 1: E-sign Laws: Hong Kong

A melting pot for international businesses, Singapore’s presence on the map has been anything but small. The importance of global business transactions for the Singapore economy heightens the need for convenience when conducting business. 

Singapore’s legal framework, with regards to electronic signatures, is also aligned with international legal guidelines by key trading partners who ensure Singapore’s thriving business ecosystem.

The Electronic Transaction Act (ETA) was introduced in 1998 then revised in 2010. It follows a tiered Electronic Transaction scheme. Drawing on the need for convenience and accessibility regardless of physical locations, the ETA knocks down a barrier to entry for engaging in international business activities. 

An electronic signature comes with the equal weightage as a traditional, written or “wet” signature. The legality of signatures, electronic or written, is not compromised regardless of how you are signing a document. 

Read on to learn more about the legal compliance for electronic signatures in Singapore specifically, and watch out for more in this series on Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, China, New Zealand, Australia, UK, Cayman Islands, and BVI.

Singapore’s Electronic Signature Requirements 

The use of electronic signatures is under the compliance of the Electronic Transaction Act (ETA). Singapore also adopts a tiered Electronic Signing scheme.

Use Cases for E-sign

Instances where e-signatures are generally considered appropriate:

  • HR documents, such as new employee onboarding processes including employment contracts, non-disclosure agreements, employee invention agreements, privacy notices, and benefits paperwork 
  • transfers of intellectual property (e.g., copyright assignments and patents)
  • licenses for intellectual property, including patent, copyright, software and trademark
  • commercial agreements between corporate entities, including non-disclosure agreements, invoices, purchase orders, sales agreements and service agreements
  • consumer agreements, including purchase orders, order confirmations, sales terms, services terms,  invoices, shipment documentation, user manuals, and policies

Use Cases Requiring Physical Signature

There are some cases where a handwritten signature will be necessary. These include:

  • Contracts relating to or effecting the disposition of immovable property or an interest in immovable property
  • Wills
  • Declaration of trust or power of attorney
  • Negotiable instruments
  • Promissory notes
  • Documents of title
  • Consignment notes
  • Bills of exchange
  • Bills of lading

The Rules

Secure Electronic Signature

18.—(1)  If, through the application of a specified security procedure, or a commercially reasonable security procedure agreed to by the parties involved, it can be verified that an electronic signature was, at the time it was made —

(a)        unique to the person using it;

(b)        capable of identifying such person;

(c)        created in a manner or using a means under the sole control of the person using it; and

(d)        linked to the electronic record to which it relates in a manner such that if the record was changed the electronic signature would be invalidated, such signature shall be treated as a secure electronic signature.

(2)  Whether a security procedure is commercially reasonable shall be determined in accordance with section 17(2).

Applicability of an Electronic Signature 

Presumptions relating to secure electronic records and signatures

19.—(1)  In any proceedings involving a secure electronic record, it shall be presumed, unless evidence to the contrary is adduced, that the secure electronic record has not been altered since the specific point in time to which the secure status relates.

(2)  In any proceedings involving a secure electronic signature, it shall be presumed, unless evidence to the contrary is adduced, that —

(a)        the secure electronic signature is the signature of the person to whom it correlates; and

(b)        the secure electronic signature was affixed by that person with the intention of signing or approving the electronic record.

(3)  In the absence of a secure electronic record or a secure electronic signature, nothing in this Part shall create any presumption relating to the authenticity and integrity of the electronic record or electronic signature.

In the age of legal technology, it’s important to know the weight of your signature, whether it is through an electronic device or on paper. 

This article does not constitute legal advice.

The opinions expressed in the column above represent the author’s own.

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Read more from the E-Signature Series: Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, China, Macau, Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan

READ MORE: Is e-signing legally binding? 

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