Why email disclaimers are vital for business communication

By Maria Dahlqvist Canton, VP Marketing, Exclaimer

There were over 306 billion emails sent and received each day during 2020, with the number set to increase to 361.6 billion by 2024.

Despite the growing presence of instant messaging systems in the workplace, emails continue to be an essential part of business communication.

Email signatures not only enable companies to create brand awareness and market themselves effectively, but they also make their emails legally compliant via the use of company disclaimers.

In this article, I discuss the value of email disclaimers and how they protect a company’s internal and external communications.

Following the law

As part of the legal requirements of the UK Companies Act, it’s against the law for companies not to include an email disclaimer.

This ruling, which came into effect in January 2007, requires all businesses both public or private to include a disclaimer in their emails, letterheads, and order forms.

The law states companies must include the company’s registered name and number, place of registration, and registered office address.

Be aware that it’s not enough to just provide a link to this information from an email footer. The regulations state any ‘display’ or disclosure of information must be in characters that can be accessed and read directly from the recipient’s email.

Failure to comply with these requirements can put a business at risk of a fine up £1,000.

It’s not just UK regulations businesses need to be aware of either. If companies start trading in a country that has different legal requirements or offers a product or service that falls within a particular remit, it’s important to remain aware and up-to-date of any regional regulations and reflect these in your email disclaimers.

GDPR friendly

Sending an email to the wrong person can have a detrimental effect on any business. This can range from client data being compromised, to major reputational damage or financial losses.

With over 130 business emails sent to the wrong recipient every week, it’s imperative companies ensure they are well protected.

Maria Dahlqvist Canton

Maria Dahlqvist Canton

Including a disclaimer in company emails informs recipients that certain content is confidential, which, in turn, protects the sender’s organisation if confidential information is accidentally exposed.

Including a link to a company’s privacy policy within a disclaimer offers an extra layer of trust to any recipient emails are sent to. It shows an organisation has a clear GDPR policy in place and that it conforms to the highest standards expected of this regulation.

For sensitive messages, I recommend adding an additional confidentiality header that states clearly whom the email is intended for. As the header will be at the top of the message, it will be the first thing a recipient reads.

Legal protection

It’s not just sending emails to the wrong person that can land employees into hot water; there have been examples where email signatures have served as legally binding agreements to contracts before the sender has realised their mistake.

As recently as 2019, a court ruling found an email to be legally binding on the basis that it was signed using an automated signature. This ended up costing the sender over £25,000.

To avoid a similar situation, organisations must ensure every email disclaimer includes a section that clearly states that a signature does not legally bind the sender to a contract.

Companies should also try to eliminate any contract terminology from its disclaimers, including, but not limited to, words like “accept”, “offer”, or “agree” unless it’s necessary.

Internal communication

When deciding upon an email disclaimer for internal communications, concentrate on employee liability and emphasise individual responsibility in and around the workplace.

Employee-to-employee communication via email happens all the time throughout the working day, and some employees could quickly find themselves in trouble for circulating offensive or harmful content.

Firms should look to educate their employees on appropriate email etiquette as well as incorporating disclaimers at the bottom of their emails to minimise any issues occurring.

Just like external emails, internal email disclaimers should be tailored to fit the needs of each department. For example, financial departments must ensure disclaimers emphasise the importance of confidentiality and security, as they are sending more sensitive data out to third parties.

To minimise headaches for the internal IT department, introduce a third-party solution such as an email signature management system. These can easily be tailored to ensure information is correct for each department, region and even country as offices expand globally.

Having a well-written email disclaimer in place moves any legal liability away from the company, safeguarding the overall business.

Read More: Why email disclaimers are vital for business communication

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