10 November 2017 by Matthew Miller

Getting to the Bottom of Your e-mails

Have you noticed e-mail footers getting longer? Okay, just me then. Fair enough – you probably don’t pay much attention to them. After all, you have better things to do….like reading the e-mail itself. But you should at least be more aware of your e-mail footer. Here’s why:

Information

  • All companies and limited liability partnerships (LLPs) registered in the UK must include the following information on all business communications, which includes all emails:

– the name and registered number of the company or LLP; and
– the part of the UK in which it is registered (e.g. England and Wales)

  • Don’t assume it is sufficient to put a link to the information in your footer. The part of the e-mail chain which includes the link could be deleted, meaning the information would not then be accessible via the next email in the chain.
  • The disclosure of business names by partnerships and individuals is subject to different requirements, as is the disclosure of information by regulated professionals and insolvent companies. Always check the rules (or we can do that for you).

This might all seem trivial, but it is a criminal offence not to comply with the statutory requirements (without having a good excuse). So your company or LLP and each director/member, could end up paying a fine.

Confidentiality

  • The use of confidentiality notices in emails is fairly common nowadays. But there is no legal authority on whether they are actually effective. What we do know is that you usually find them at the bottom of e-mails, where they are typically going to be read by the recipient after the contents of the e-mail itself. On that basis alone, it is unlikely that such notices will be effective.
  • It is also doubtful whether a confidentiality notice will be effective if it appears automatically on every outgoing e-mail that you send i.e. without you considering whether the e-mail in question does in fact contain any confidential or sensitive information.
  • To increase the possibility of a court or regulator giving effect to a confidentiality notice on an e-mail:

– it should appear at the start of the e-mail; and
– it should not be generated automatically

Disclaimers

  • Many businesses include disclaimers in their emails automatically; whereas they should be used more selectively. Usually, the broader the disclaimer, the less likely it is to be of any real use.
  • A wide disclaimer excluding all liability for all losses resulting from any reliance on anything contained in the e-mail is unlikely to be effective. Especially if it is buried in the small print of the e-mail footer.
  • A prominent, customised, sensible and clearly worded disclaimer is a much better bet. Another good option might be to include a link to your privacy policy and (if applicable) your website terms of use.

So, in a nutshell, pay a bit more attention to your e-mail footer – you never know when you might need it.

If you need advice on what information to include in business communications, or on confidentiality notices or disclaimers, please contact Matthew Miller on 020 7288 4739 or at matthewmiller@boltburdon.co.uk.

You can also contact one of our other solicitors in the Corporate and Commercial team here.

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