Overview of electronic signature law and its legality in Saudi Arabia

Digital signatures have been legally recognized in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia since 2007, but they are only allowed for certified electronic transactions. This means they may not be allowed for general business use.

  • Can I use electronic signatures for business in Saudi Arabia?No, there may be some situations where eSignatures aren’t an option for general business use.
  • Are digital signatures court-admissible in Saudi Arabia?Yes, though additional evidence may be required.
  • What is the legal model of an electronic signature in Saudi Arabia?Saudi Arabia operates under a tiered legal model.

A summary of Saudi Arabia’s legal framework

Saudi Arabia operates under traditional Islamic law

Saudi Arabia’s legal model operates under traditional Sharia law, which is based on teachings found in the Quran. The country’s regulations cannot violate a principle of Sharia law, and any contractual provisions that do are considered null and void.

Contractual freedom is recognized, with one very big caveat. Saudi courts will not uphold any provisions that violate Sharia law.

In Saudi Arabia, very little emphasis is put on judicial precedents. The way a matter is handled in court does not mean a similar case will be handled in the same way. Individual judges base their decisions upon their interpretation of Sharia law.

eSignature laws in Saudi Arabia

According to Saudi law, a handwritten signature is not required to validate a contract. Contracts are recognized as legally binding if two competent individuals come to a verbal, written, or electronic agreement.

However, there may be situations where individuals parties may need to provide additional evidence in court. This presents obvious problems for verbal agreements or contracts where a standard electronic signature is used.

The Electronic Transactions Law

Saudi Arabia’s eSignature laws stem from the passing of the Electronic Transaction Law in 2007. This law states that a handwritten signature is not required for a contract to be legally binding.

According to Article 5 of the Electronic Transactions Law, contracts cannot be denied enforceability for merely being electronic.

Use cases for eSignatures

There are three different types of digital signatures, but right now, we’ll focus on two: standard electronic signatures (SES) and qualified electronic signatures (QES).

An SES is the most basic form an eSignature. The signatory can draw or type their name, and there is no third-party verification required.

A QES is an eSignature that is supported by a qualified certificate. Legally, a QES is acknowledged as being equal to that of a handwritten signature.

Acceptance uses cases for SES

Listed below are a few scenarios when an SES would be appropriate in Saudi Arabia:

  • HR documents;
  • Employee onboarding paperwork;
  • Sales terms;
  • Retail accounts;
  • Invoices.

Acceptable use cases for QES

Listed below are a few scenarios when a QES would be appropriate in Saudi Arabia:

  • Purchase agreements;
  • Commercial agreements;
  • Payment terms;
  • Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs);
  • Residential and commercial real estate agreements.

Unacceptable use cases for eSignatures

Listed below are a few scenarios when eSignatures are not acceptable, and a handwritten signature may be required:

  • Estate title transfers;
  • Notarizations;
  • Power of attorney.

Can PandaDoc software be used in Saudi Arabia?

Yes, our eSignature software complies with laws in over 42 different countries, including the UK, India, the United States, Canada, Germany, etc. You can use our software to create contracts and receive qualified electronic signatures. If you’re interested in trying it out first, you can sign up for a free 14-day trial.