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Services that allow users to affix seals and conclude contracts online are attracting attention in Japan at a time when many companies are promoting teleworking amid the new coronavirus outbreak.

A growing number of people started working from home amid the COVID-19 crisis, but many of them still need to go to their offices to check paper documents and stamp hanko personal seals on them.

The services are aimed at promoting the use of electronic signatures and online contracting services to break away from Japan’s traditional hanko culture, which involves the use of personal stamps to make documents official.

According to a survey released by Adobe K.K. in March, more than 60 percent of respondents said they had to go to their offices to check documents and stamp hanko during the time they were asked to work from home.

The government is stepping up reviews of regulations regarding the system, which is said to be disrupting efforts to promote teleworking.

Stationery maker Shachihata Inc. has been offering an electronic seal-stamping service that allows users to access documents via the cloud and stamp them on smartphones and computers.

The number of new users has increased drastically in the past few months, according to the company based in the central Japanese city of Nagoya.

Hanko are used in Japan in place of signing official documents, but have proven to be incompatible with teleworking. | KYODO
Hanko are used in Japan in place of signing official documents, but have proven to be incompatible with teleworking. | KYODO

“Users increased as more companies introduced teleworking after the government issued its coronavirus emergency (in early April),” a public relations official of Shachihata said, referring to the nationwide state of emergency announcement by the government on April 16.

Also, there are services for businesses to conclude contacts safely via the internet.

In July, office equipment manufacturer Ricoh Co. will launch a service that makes it possible for users to affix seals and save contract documents in the cloud, in cooperation with online contracting service operator Bengo4.com Inc.

Seiko Solutions Inc., based in Chiba Prefecture, has been offering a service that helps users conclude contracts online. Users can check when documents were created and by whom.

The company plans to offer a simplified version of the service with much lower fees from July to encourage small and mid-sized companies to use it.

“The domestic market for online contracting services is expanding faster than was expected before the virus crisis,” said Tatsuki Miura, senior analyst at information technology consulting company ITR Corp.

The market is likely to grow further, with an increasing number of companies using such services.

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