Legal status of scanned documents

In South Africa, the legal status of scanned electronic documents is governed by the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (ECTA) of 2002. The ECTA recognizes the validity and legal effect of electronic documents and signatures, providing a legal framework for their use in commercial and legal transactions.

According to the ECTA, a scanned electronic document can have the same legal status as a traditional physical document, as long as certain requirements are met.


  1. Authenticity and Integrity: The scanned electronic document must maintain its integrity and authenticity throughout its lifecycle. This means that the document must not be altered or tampered with, and there should be reasonable measures in place to ensure its accuracy and reliability.
  1. Reliable Identification: The person or entity associated with the scanned electronic document must be reliably identified. This can be achieved through various means, such as digital signatures, encryption, or other secure methods of identification.
  1. Consent: The parties involved in the transaction must consent to the use of electronic documents and agree to conduct their business electronically. This consent can be explicit or implied, depending on the circumstances.
  1. Accessibility and Legibility: The scanned electronic document should be easily accessible and legible when presented or requested. This means that the document must be stored in a format that allows for easy retrieval and reading.
  1. Retention and Retrieval: The scanned electronic document must be retained in a manner that ensures its integrity and allows for its retrieval at a later date. This includes implementing appropriate systems and processes for storage and retrieval, as well as adhering to any legal requirements for document retention.