I’m not sure where I found this or under what understanding I made a copy of it but it was on my old website for quite some time. So I’m going to keep it until I’m asked to remove it.
By Jeremy Holt, Clark Holt Solicitors
Published in Computing 15 April 2004
Businesses sometimes believe that all their ills can be cured by a well-drafted disclaimer at the foot of an email not so. Email disclaimers are of little value, other than to notify the recipient that the contents of the email are confidential and to offer a method of reporting any misdirection. They can look particularly absurd if a one line message about the time of a meeting is preceded by an eleven line disclaimer (large firms of accountants please take note.) Email disclaimers are no substitute either for a proper email policy for staff within a business or for the legal information that must be shown in an
email, which is the same as must be shown on a business letter.
The following information must appear on company letters: the full name of the company, the registered number of the company, the address of the registered office and an indication that that address is the registered office and, finally, the country of registration of the company. A sole trader must have their real name (ie. not just a trading name) and an address on their business letters. Businesses who do not abide by these rules risk looking amateur, or newly started, or both.
There is no reason to differentiate between a postal letter and an email. Businesses failing to follow these rules fully is all the more surprising when the vast majority of business messages are now sent by email. There are a number of consequences in failing to abide by the Companies Act 1985 and the Business Names Act 1985 in providing the required information in company letters or emails:
- it is a criminal offence BOTH by the company concerned AND by the person who authorises the communication on behalf of the company (Section 349(3) Companies Act 1985)
- if it relates to an order for goods and the company’s name is not mentioned in the email the individual who sent it can be PERSONALLY LIABLE for the order (Section 349(4) Companies Act 1985)
- difficulties can arise in bringing legal proceedings to enforce a contract made where the appropriate information has not appeared on the company’s notepaper or in the company’s email (Section 5 Business Names Act 1985)
Jeremy Holt is head of the Computer Law Group at Clark Holt Commercial Solicitors, chairman of the BCS IT Law Specialist Group, and co-editor of the new BCS book A Managers Guide to IT Law.
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