Emails have become the major method of business communication, including the form chosen for official public correspondence for many organizations. It is therefore very important to minimize, as much as possible, the risks of such communication.
Broadly speaking there are 6 risks that arise from email communication:
- Emails containing incorrect information that the recipient relies on
- Emails containing specific advice that the recipient misunderstands or misuses
- Emails containing confidential information sent to the wrong person
- Emails containing contact and personal details of the intended recipient sent to the wrong person (breach of Privacy)
- Emails containing inappropriate comments that reflect poorly on the organisation
- Emails containing a job offer or offer of a contract
All 6 risks can be mitigated and company liability limited by including an Email Disclaimer, appended to the bottom of every email sent by a business or organisation. Including a Disclaimer will not only ensure you make it clear that the email content is confidential and was intended for a particular recipient but it will also protect against any misuse of this information where possible.
What should an Email Disclaimer include?
The Email Disclaimer should make it clear that:
- The email is only intended for the recipient and that recipient alone
- Any advice contained in the email is for the intended recipient only
- The information in the email, including contact details, is confidential
- The information in the email may not be used by the incorrect recipient
- The email must be destroyed if received by the incorrect recipient (and the sender notified that the email was received by mistake)
- The views and opinions expressed in the email do not necessarily reflect the views of the organisation
In the absence of an Email Disclaimer, an unintended recipient may be able to claim that they did not know or were not aware that the information contained in the email was of a confidential nature. They may also try to use this information to their benefit and claim they did not know it was sent to them in error.
Are Email Disclaimers effective?
Yes, generally speaking, Email Disclaimers are effective in reducing a company or individual’s liability, should an email be sent in error. However, Email Disclaimers do not provide full protection and the extent of the protection has yet to be fully tested in Australian courts.
When should I use an Email Disclaimer?
You should use an Email Disclaimer on all your business communication. Including an Email Disclaimer at the end of all emails goes a long way in limiting the liability of the email sender, making the recipient aware of the confidential nature of the content and requesting that any email sent in error be immediately destroyed.
Email Disclaimers are now best practice for all businesses and are a fundamental part of risk management for any company.