An email disclaimer is important for businesses who work with sensitive information. Technology is not always 100% reliable, and human errors do occur. In this case, having an email disclaimer will help protect your business.
What is an Email Disclaimer?
You probably see an email disclaimer more than you think, but may not realise it. Usually when you get an email from a business, you’ll see something like this at the bottom of the email:
“Please note that this email and any files attached with it are confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom the email is addressed. “
This legal statement is an email disclaimer, which identifies the email as only being for the intended parties. Email disclaimers serve multiple purposes, all with the overarching aim of minimising their liability.
Reducing liability if a virus is transmitted
More often than not, emails can contain unwelcome computer viruses. The company sending the email can protect themselves from legal action. A common example of an email disclaimer notes that the company is not responsible for any damage from a virus.
Protecting the sender from entering into contracts
When a client will email businesses with an offer for sale, a business can form a contract over email by replying. However, when businesses do not want to enter said contract, they can protect themselves with a specific business disclaimer. Commonly, these disclaimers read that unless done by the director, no contract will be entered into through email.
Protection from error
Inevitably, a business will send an email to the wrong address because of human error. In more serious cases, this can cause the spread of confidential information. However, an email disclaimer can protect the company from some of the legal consequences.
Enforceability of email disclaimers
It is important to note that while email disclaimers discourage any harmful actions to the business, they are not enforceable. Email disclaimers are founded on contract law. In any contract, you cannot impose contractual obligations on someone else without their agreement. This means that when you send an email, the included disclaimer does not also impose legal obligations on the recipient. With emails, simply opening them and reading them isn’t enough to agree to take on these obligations.
So why do we need email disclaimers?
Although email disclaimers may not be fully enforceable, they make the recipient aware of the confidential nature of the email. They discourage them from forwarding the email to any friends or family as they make clear the legal obligations of the business.
Additionally, while it won’t fully exclude a sender’s liability, a disclaimer reduces their liability from any potential legal action. Disclaimers may not be enforceable in court, but they tell recipients if they have permission to disclose the information in the email.
If your business does not use an email disclaimer, when an employee sends a confidential email to an external party by mistake, the actual intended sender can take legal action against you. In this instance, you will have zero form of protection against such action. The use of an email disclaimer is a good and professional practice for companies as it protects businesses from digital errors and mistakes. If you’re unsure as to whether your disclaimer is air-tight, contact a business lawyer.