On 8 May 2015, Singapore Customs revised its Guide on "Keeping and Maintaining Records in Image System" (the "Guide") to include a new requirement for all importers, exporters and their agents (collectively, “Traders”) who wish to keep and maintain records in Image Systems. The additional requirement provides that the storage system used must include proven hardware and software components reputable for security, quality and performance. Traders who currently use or intend to use an Image System to store images without retaining the physical paper document should ensure that their procedures are updated to comply with the additional criteria.
As part of these updates, Traders must now ensure that the Image System used includes "proven hardware and software components reputable for security, quality and performance" ("Proven Systems"). It should be noted that the responsibility of ensuring compliance with the Guide remains with Traders who outsource the imaging, storage and maintenance of their trade documents and records to third-party service bureaus.
It should also be noted that all original documents must be kept unless the Image storage of the business records has been carried out in accordance with the requirements as provided for in the Guide. As the Guide does not define what will constitute a Proven System, Traders should remain cognizant of storage products offered by market leaders in the storage system, software and services industry and ensure that such products used are at all times stable and reliable. This revision is particularly relevant given the growing popularity of cloud storage services which may not offer the same security, quality and performance as a Proven System. This revision is also aimed at preventing the corruption of information from the use of unreliable software or systems.
It should be noted that notwithstanding this revision, the Guide does not replace the requirements under the Evidence Act (Cap. 97) or the Evidence (Computer Output) Regulations (collectively, the “Evidence Legislation”). Traders who intend to rely on Image Systems to admit evidence under the Evidence Legislation should seek legal advice.