eSignature Legality Summary

In the UAE, the use and admissibility of electronic signatures is governed by the Federal Decree-Law No. 46/2021 on Electronic Transactions and Trust Services (the "Law") - September 20, 2021. This law also includes provisions on data protection, confidentiality, and security, which are aimed at ensuring the privacy and security of electronic transactions. It establishes the UAE National Electronic Security Authority (NESA) as the national authority responsible for ensuring the security of electronic transactions in the country.

Under this law, electronic signatures are legally recognized and can be used in place of traditional signatures in many cases. Here are some of the key applications of electronic signatures under this law:

  • Validity: An electronic signature is considered to be legally valid and enforceable if it is created using a secure electronic signature creation device and is linked to the signatory in a unique way that allows for their identification.
  • Legal Effect: An electronic signature has the same legal effect as a traditional signature and can be used to sign contracts, agreements, and other legal documents.
  • Admissibility: An electronic signature is admissible as evidence in court proceedings and can be used to prove the authenticity of a signed document.
  • Requirements: The law sets out specific requirements for the use of electronic signatures, including the use of secure electronic signature creation devices, the use of a qualified electronic signature, and the need to obtain consent from all parties involved.
  • Trust Service Providers: The law also sets out the requirements for electronic signature service providers to ensure the security and reliability of the electronic signature creation process, and the conditions under which they can provide trust services.

The Law includes conditions for the retention of electronic records. Conditions for retention of electronic records are satisfied when an electronic document:

  • is retained in the same format in which it was generated, received or sent
  • the information in such electronic document is retained in such a manner where it allows for identification of the source of the document
  • keeps the information in a manner that can be issued and restored to later

Use Cases for eSignature ?

Use cases where an SES is typically appropriate include:

  • Internal company documents: Simple electronic signatures can be used for internal company documents, such as memos, reports, and correspondence. These types of documents do not typically require a high level of legal or technical security.
  • HR documents: Simple electronic signatures can be used for HR documents such as offer letters, employment contracts, and employee performance reviews. These documents may have some legal significance, but the consequences of a forged signature are typically minimal.
  • Marketing materials: Simple electronic signatures can be used for marketing materials such as promotional emails and newsletters. These types of documents do not typically require a high level of legal or technical security.
  • Non-sensitive agreements: Simple electronic signatures can be used for non-sensitive agreements such as non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), service level agreements (SLAs), and other types of agreements that do not involve significant legal or financial consequences.
  • Personal documents: Simple electronic signatures can be used for personal documents such as invitations, greeting cards, and personal letters. These types of documents do not typically require a high level of legal or technical security.

Use Cases for Qualified Signatures ?

Use cases where an QES is typically appropriate include:

  • Legal documents: Qualified electronic signatures can be used for legal documents such as contracts, deeds, and powers of attorney. These types of documents often involve significant legal and financial consequences, making it important to ensure the authenticity and integrity of the signatures.
  • Financial transactions: Qualified electronic signatures can be used for financial transactions, such as banking transactions, securities contracts, and insurance policies. These types of transactions often involve large sums of money and require a high level of security and legal validity.
  • Government transactions: Qualified electronic signatures can be used for government transactions, such as tax filings, customs declarations, and permit applications. This can help reduce fraud and improve the efficiency of government processes.
  • Healthcare documents: In the healthcare sector, qualified electronic signatures can be used for medical records, prescription orders, and other healthcare documents that require a high level of security and legal validity.
  • Intellectual property rights: Qualified electronic signatures can be used to protect intellectual property rights, such as patents, trademarks, and copyrights. The signature can be used to prove that the creator or owner of the intellectual property has approved or agreed to a particular transaction or document.

However, the law provides that electronic signatures cannot be used for the following purposes:

  • Documents that are required by law to be executed in a specific form
  • Documents that involve real estate transactions, such as sale or purchase of immovable property, lease agreements or mortgages
  • Documents that involve family matters, such as marriage contracts, divorce papers or adoption papers.

In these cases, a handwritten signature or other specific form of signature may still be required by law. In addition, the use of electronic signatures may be limited in certain contexts, such as in the case of high-value transactions or those involving sensitive data or information. In these cases, additional security measures may be required to ensure the integrity and authenticity of the electronic signature.

List of Local Trust Service Providers
Company Product Category (CSP/CCSP) Website
eMudhra DMCC emSigner Cross Certification Service Provider www.emudhra.com www.emsigner.com
Digital Trust. L.L.C N/A Certificate Service Provider https://www.digitaltrust.ae/
First Abu Dhabi Bank P.J.S.C N/A Certificate Service Provider https://www.bankfab.com/en-ae/personal
Docusign, Inc. Docusign eSignature Cross Certification Service Provider https://www.docusign.com/
Adobe Systems Software Ireland Ltd. Adobe Sign Cross Certification Service Provider https://www.adobe.com/in/sign.html
Circularo Mena FZCO Circularo Cross Certification Service Provider https://www.circularo.com/about-us/
LIeida Networks Serveis Telematics, S.A Click & Sign Cross Certification Service Provider https://www.clickandsign.ae/en
Ascertia Limited SigningHub Cross Certification Service Provider https://www.signinghub.com/
Definitions

An Electronic Signature is a digital version of a handwritten signature or a mark that identifies the signer of an electronic document or message. It is a way to sign documents, contracts, or agreements online without the need for physical paper or ink. Electronic Signatures can be created using various methods, such as typing your name in a signature field, drawing your signature on a touchscreen device, or using a specialized software that generates a unique digital signature. Electronic Signatures are legally recognized in many countries and are considered to have the same legal validity as handwritten signatures in most cases.

An AES is an “advanced electronic signature”, a type of electronic signature that meets the following requirements:

  • it is uniquely linked to the signatory
  • it is capable of identifying the signatory
  • it is created using means that are under the signatory’s sole control
  • it is linked to other electronic data in such a way that any alteration to the said data can be detected.

A QES is a specific digital signature implementation that has met the particular specifications of a government, including using a secure signature creation device, and has been certified as ‘qualified’ by either that government or a party contracted by that government. Qualified Electronic Signature (QES) can only be issued by Qualified Trust Service Providers (QTSPs)

Local Technology Standard

UAE PASS is the first secure national digital identity for citizens and residents, enabling them to access many online services across various sectors, sign and authenticate documents as well as transactions digitally, request a digital version of their official documents, and use the official documents to request services from the partners of UAE PASS. It is a local Qualified Signature Service offered by the government of Dubai. This service can be leveraged to procure Qualified Electronic Signatures and sign/verify documents digitally.

External Resources

DISCLAIMER: This information is intended to help you understand the legal framework of electronic signatures. However, eMudhra cannot provide legal advice. The law of electronic signatures is constantly evolving. This guide is not intended as a legal advice and should not serve as a substitute for professional legal advice. You should consult an attorney regarding any specific legal concerns. eMudhra, and all associates including agents, officers, employees or affiliates, are not liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, special, exemplary or consequential damages.