Can scan copy contracts serve as valid evidence in China courts?
Updated: Mar 18
With the development of network communication technology, the negotiation methods of cross-border trade are becoming more and more convenient, especially in the current situation of restricting personnel mobility due to the novel coronavirus, the common way of transaction between overseas businessmen and Chinese businessmen is to reach an agreement in the form of an electronic scanned contract by using e-mail, Wechat, QQ or other network communication tools.
Meanwhile, many client asked us, can scan copy contract be used in China court when disputes arise? Here is our response:
I. The scanned contract is also a legal and valid contract.
According to Article 63 of the Civil Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China (2017 Amendment), Article 469 of the Civil Code of the People’s Republic of China and relevant judicial precedents, electronic scanned copies of contracts are formed by electronic data, which can tangibly express the content contained in the contract, conform to the written form of contract, and is also a form of evidence stipulated by law. It means means that the scanned contract is the same as the usual written contract, which is legal and effective in form and can also be used as legal judicial evidence.
II. If the lawsuit goes to the court, the scanned copy needs other evidence to confirm before it can be adopted.
According to Article 11, Article 15, Paragraph 2, Article 23, and Article 90 of the "Some Provisions of the Supreme People's Court on Evidence in Civil Procedures (2019 Amendment)", a scanned copy of the contract can be used as evidence in the form of electronic data, but the party concerned shall provide the original or a copy that can be checked against the original.
That is to say: in the field of judicial evidence, compared with the original contract, a scanned copy of the contract has weaker proving power, and the court will not only determine the existence of a contractual relationship between the two parties based on the scanned copy of the contract. According to relevant judicial precedents, in practice, the authenticity and validity of the scanned contract should be corroborated with other evidence, such as whether the contract is stamped with the official seal of both parties, relevant chat records, mailbox records, etc., which can be inquired and provided as the original receipt records, and other evidence materials related to the contract performance (such as cargo consignment note, bank payment voucher, IOU, bank transaction details), etc., so that the scanned copy of the contract has the corresponding proof force.
In international trade business, when signing a contract:
In order to facilitate the transaction, you can use the scanned copy to sign a contract first, then conduct the business.
For important transactions, in order to prevent the lack of effective evidence when disputes occur, it is recommended to require the other party to sign the original contract and send it to you for storage.
If it is really difficult to keep the original contract, the scanned copy of the contract can be used as legal judicial evidence. Attention should be paid is to keep the relevant original receipt records in the network communication process, as well as the relevant communication records, payment vouchers, mail records, etc. related to the two parties' performance of the contract for mutual corroboration.
If you encounter legal issues in the process of dealing with Chinese clients, please contact Landing Law Office to choose a professional lawyer for consultation.
Larry Zhou, Partner
Landing Law Offices China
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