Guangzhou court to streamline submission of evidence from WeChat, QQ

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Nansha District People’s Court in Guangzhou will allow easier acceptance of electronic records from QQ, WeChat, Alipay, and other internet platforms to be used as key evidence in court, local media is reporting (in Chinese). The move makes the Nansha court the first in Guandong province to permit internet electronic records to be presented in court without notarization.

Deputy president of Nansha District People’s Court Li Sheng explained that the current regulations around electronic evidence from the internet are rather sporadic and unsystematic, adding to the difficulty of getting electronic records authenticated and notarized. This verification process is usually a costly, complicated, and time-consuming procedure. The court has proposed a regulation to make the acceptance of electronic evidence easier.

Legal disputes involving evidence of this nature are more common than ever. According to the court, commercial disputes in the first half of 2018 saw a 50% increase from the same period last year.

Different from the traditional paper documentation and physical evidence, digital evidence is harder to validate and can be tampered with and fabricated. In many cases, evidence in electronic format is considered invalid or deemed untrustworthy.

The proposed regulation aims to allow electronic evidence to be submitted with greater ease. Electronic records can now be presented as evidence if the court finds both parties’ chat records consistent and their identity (such as name, phone number) on their account checks out.

The new regulation applies to electronic data from “instant messages, email, QQ, WeChat, Alipay and other communication and payment software” in various formats including chat records, WeChat moments, and payment transaction records.

Digital records transmitted over the internet have started to replace audio and video recordings and other types traditional electronic evidence to become the most common format of evidence—WeChat, QQ, email, mobile payment, and instant messages are among the most popular types. Figures from the Nansha court show that digital records from WeChat are the most common, accounting for 65% of all cases involving electronic evidence. Records from email and instant messages account for 14% each, while records from Alipay and QQ amount to roughly 7%. With the rise of fintech platforms, as well as online credit and loan services, e-contracts have become an increasingly important form of evidence.