Overview of electronic signature law and its legality in Japan

In 2000, Japan first passed The Electronic Signatures and Certification Business Act. This law determined that eSignatures may be used to sign general business contracts. The law also states that electronic signatures are admissible in court, though both parties may be required to submit additional proof.

In regards to electronic signatures, Japan has a tiered legal model. This means that it recognizes qualified electronic signatures (QES) as a distinct type of signature and gives it the same legal weight as a handwritten signature.

An overview of Japan’s legal model

Japan is primarily considered a civil law system, but its legal model contains elements of both common law and civil law systems. Civil law systems are based on codified statutes whereas common law systems favor published judicial opinions.

The country operates under a civil law system when it comes to contracts, family relations, succession, and property. However, Japan resembles a common law system when it comes to corporate law, constitutional law, taxation, and labor relations.

The 3 different types of electronic signature

When the eIDAS regulations passed in 2016, it outlined three distinct types of electronic signatures: standard electronic signatures (SES), advanced electronic signatures (AES), and qualified electronic signatures (QES).

A QES is considered the most secure and trustworthy type of eSignature. That’s because it was created with a qualified electronic signature creation device, and comes with an electronic signing certificate.

An AES is also considered fairly secure because it provides some type of verification of who signed the document. In comparison, an SES is considered the least secure type of electronic signature.

An SES is typically drawn, typed, or uploaded and doesn’t provide any verification of who signed the document. For that reason, an SES may not be considered legally admissible in court and may not be allowed on certain types of documents.

When is an SES appropriate?

An SES is the least secure type of eSignature, but there are some situations when an SES is appropriate. An SES can be used for the following types of documents:

  • HR documents: This includes things like onboarding paperwork and benefits paperwork.
  • Commercial and consumer agreements: This includes things like non-disclosure agreements, sales agreements, and retail agreements.
  • Real estate documents: This includes sales contracts, basic lease agreements, and purchase contracts.

However, an SES cannot be used on certain government documents, wills and testamentary trusts, marriage contracts, and adoption paperwork. If you’re not sure whether an SES is appropriate, it’s always best to opt for a QES.

Can I use PandaDoc in Japan?

Yes, PandaDoc software complies with the existing eSignature regulations in Japan. Every contract you sign comes with a secure electronic signing certificate, so you’ll know all of your contracts and documents are secure and legally binding.

To get started with PandaDoc, feel free to check out our Free eSign Plan. This plan gives you access to unlimited business documents and electronic signatures, and it’s completely free.