In today's world of high-speed electronic communications you would expect your employees to use email.
Your organisation's corporate email configuration should include an email disclaimer configured and added automatically to the bottom of the message before being sent.
The email disclaimer should contain information such as the signature of the sender; business notice; confidentiality notice; disclaimer notice; and a monitoring notice,
Whilst lawyers argue about the legal effectiveness of some information contained in the email footer, it's always best to cover yourself. So what do you need to write?
Business notices in an email disclaimer have legal authority. But their legal effectiveness remain unclear. However, you can still use them provided you take care when drafting the notices. You should write business, disclaimer and confidentiality notices as three separate notices at the foot of outgoing emails.
Certain types of email may also need more information. For example those that are sector-specific or used for direct marketing. This article only looks at an organisation's standard email requirements. We provide links to other articles in the website where you can find more information for other specific circumstances.
The sender's signature confirms who has sent the email to its recipient. Usually, the signature also includes the name of the organisation, job title of the sender, and their contact details. The signature also validates what is written in the email. Please read our article on The Electronic Signatures Regulations 2002 for further information
Limited Liability Partnership and Limited Company
In the case of a Limited Liability Partnerships (LLP) or a limited company (LTD), the Companies Act 1985 and The Companies (Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2008 you need to write certain business information clearly in all business e-mails, in the organisation's letter head and order forms.
- Your company's registered name (e.g. XYZ Ltd)
- Your company registration number;
- Your place of registration (e.g. Scotland or England & Wales); and
- Your registered office address
This information should also appear on your company's website. It is not enough to give a link to this information from an email footer. Failure to give these mandatory business notices could result in a £1,000 fine with an extra daily fine of up to £300 per day for any continuing breach. Trading Standards is responsible for enforcement.
Example business notice
'E RADAR Limited, is a company registered in England and Wales. Registered number: 7095354 . Registered office: Stonefield House, Penistone Road, Shepley, Huddersfield, HD8 8BE, West Yorkshire'
Sole traders and standards partnerships
The business information set out above is not required of sole traders or standard partnerships
Some companies are part of a group of companies - e.g. ABC Ltd might be one of several subsidiaries of XYZ plc. It is not good practice to use just one standard shared business notice in emails. Each email footer should make clear which company it represents. If an email is not sent on behalf of the parent company, it should not refer to the parent company's details. Do not offer a link to a web page which explains the corporate structure instead of providing proper business notices.
On a practical level always make sure you have an agreed set of templates that are easy-to-use across the different business divisions.
Confusingly, the standard confidentiality notice tends to state that the 'content of the email is confidential' and that 'it should not be read by anyone other than the intended recipient'. Yet, how does one know they are not an intended recipient until they have read the email?
Even placing the confidentiality notice above the main text of the message does not help this practical problem. You will always rely upon the goodwill of an unintended recipient to make sure that the information in an email remains confidential. A confidentiality notice is a way of re-stating the obvious to avoid third-party disclosure. The value of the notice is that, if the disclosure of email content becomes a subject of dispute, it would be possible to point a court to the existence of the confidentiality notice and argue that the recipient should have known to not disclose the contents of the message.
The following words are adequate
' Email confidentiality notice '
This message is private and confidential. If you have received this message in error, please tell us and remove it from your system.
Email disclaimer notice
Use an email disclaimer notice with caution. No legal authority exists in using one, but guidance on the general use of a disclaimer is available.
Remember that a business email is a commercial communication. So you should only send it if the you can rely upon the content. It does not make commercial sense to send an email containing non-sense!
Many disclaimers do not stand up in court because mandatory legal rules override them or the organisation does not have proper policies and rules in place to support them.
What you attempt to disclaim will depend on the nature of your business. If you think your business should add a disclaimer to all its email messages, seek legal advice on its likely effectiveness.
Monitoring traffic data
If your organisation monitors some email traffic data, your outgoing emails should say: “[Organisation name] may monitor email traffic data.”
Monitoring traffic data and content
If your organization also monitors the content of email, you should say:
“[Organisation name] may monitor email traffic data and the content of email for the purposes of [quality control, security and staff training].“
The monitoring of business email is primarily governed by The Telecommunications (Lawful Business Practice) Regulations 2000 and the Data Protection Act 1998. Other laws also apply including the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. The monitoring notice applies to all organisations.