Are online document signing services accepted in Japan?
Updated: Dec 8, 2021
With the current trend of remote or 'Telework' in Japan, we are seeing contracts switch to digital-based contract signing platforms like Docusign. And as a result we are increasingly asked by our clients if this form of non-hanko'd contracts (using a registered company seal) are legally accepted in Japan?
The simple answer is: Yes!
A more detailed breakdown of the Japanese law concerning E-contracts can be found in
Article 3 of the 'Law concerning electronic signature and certification business', which governs legal authenticity of an electronic data to which an electronic signature is affixed.
Article 3 reads as follows:
“An electro-magnetic record which is made in order to express information (with the exception of one drawn by a public official in the exercise of his/her official functions) shall be presumed to be authentic if an electronic signature (limited to those that, if based on the proper control of the codes and objects necessary to perform the signature, only that person can substantially perform) is affixed by the principal in relation to information recorded in the electro-magnetic record.”
Our expert says:
In short, the above provision is saying to the effect that an electronic data, with a principal’s electronic signature affixed to the same, shall have the same force and effect as a paper contract signed and sealed by the maker of such paper document.
However In reading Article 3 above, please note that:
a) “presumed to be authentic” is to be interpreted as “legally binding unless and until proved that the pertinent electronic signature is false”.
b) “Electronic signature” can be confirmed authentic if both an “electronic certificate” and a “time stamp” are affixed to the electronic data in question.
Accordingly, if you have followed the proper measures which may qualify you as an authentic signatory to such an electronic data, a contract so electronically signed by you shall have the same legal effect as one executed as a paper document with your handwritten signature and/or official corporate seal.
This article and its research, represents our interpretive findings, it is by no means to be used as definitive proof or a basis for contract execution. We advise you to seek advise from your own legal council when deciding to use any digital-based contract platform or service. Thank you!
If you have any questions about setting up a business in Japan- please get in touch!