The Complete Guide to Email Disclaimer Laws in the United Kingdom
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Within the UK, it is still important for companies to use email disclaimers to protect against corporate damages or other liabilities. In actual fact, they are seen by some to be as legally binding as any other electronic signature.
An example of this was where an email signature block was deemed legally binding in the UK High Court regarding a land sale in northern England. In the end, it cost a land seller £25,000. If an appropriate email disclaimer had been located at the bottom of the message, this would not have occurred.
The UK Companies Act 1985
The Companies Act of 1985 is an important UK company law. Its purpose is to govern various aspects of the registration and management of companies.
Every company must keep accounting records which sufficiently show and explain the company’s transactions that:
- Disclose with reasonable accuracy, at any time, the financial position of the company at that time
- Enable the directors to ensure that any balance sheet and profit and loss account prepared under this Part complies with the requirements of this Act
A company’s accounting records need to kept at its registered office or such other place as the directors think fit. At the same time, these records have to open to inspection by the company’s officers at all times. From the date on which the record is made, private companies must retain this information for three years and public companies for six years.
The UK Companies Act 2006 (amended 2007)
The UK Companies Act 2006 is an update to the original 1985 legislation and came into effect on January 1, 2007. This was due to the introduction of the EU Directive 2003/58/EC, which affected the UK as part of European Union law.
If your business is a private or public limited company or a Limited Liability Partnership, the Companies Act requires all business emails (and your letterhead and order forms) to include the following details in a legible email disclaimer:
- The company’s registered name (e.g. ABC Ltd)
- Your registered office address
- Your place of registration (e.g. England & Wales or Scotland)
This UK email disclaimer also has to appear on a company’s website. This is enforced by Trading Standards with fines for non-compliance starting at £1,000. Additional fines of £300 per day can be levied if the breach continues.
If the disclosure of email content leads to a dispute, it can be argued in court that the recipient should have known to not disclose the contents of the information.
Example UK email disclaimer
The General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679
GDPR, otherwise known as the General Data Protection Regulation, is the most comprehensive data privacy standards to date. It affects any company that processes the personal data of European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) citizens. This is regardless of where a company is based.
This law came into effect on May 25, 2018 when the UK was still a member of the EU. As part of the Brexit process, the UK enshrined in law that it would continue to comply with GDPR.
Unlike some of other laws, GDPR does not have any set rules surrounding the use of disclaimers in emails. However, using a GDPR-compliant email disclaimer can help companies comply with the regulation.
At the same time, unsubscribe links in email disclaimers make it easy for recipients to remove themselves from your mailing lists. However, you don’t need to add one to every email your company sends such as where there is implied consent. They are more effective when used in emails where a quote has been requested.
Financial Services Act 2012
The Financial Services Act was passed to consolidate the regulatory authority of numerous agencies in the United Kingdom. The FSA (Financial Services Authority), which had previously been given broad powers to regulate the financial industry, was replaced with two new regulators, namely the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority, which created the Financial Policy Committee of the Bank of England. This framework went into effect on April 1, 2013.
The purpose of the amended Act was to restructure and broaden the law relating to market manipulation, misleading statements and impressions as well as modernize the financial regulation that failed to protect the UK economy from the fallout of the 2008 recession.
While the Act does not provide specifics around using an email disclaimer, there is some guidance in relation to records retention. For example, in relation to guidance on Money Laundering, records relating to transactions, reports and “information not acted on” must be retained for a period of five years.
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