Do I need a disclaimer on my email signature?
We recommend that businesses using email include a simple email disclaimer in their email signature to protect themselves against issues which arise from emailing. There are also more things to think about using email legally when you’re talking about email marketing, even on an individual basis, so it’s best to be following the rules and regulations to the letter to avoid any difficulties.
Email disclaimers are commonly used to help protect your company in the areas of confidentiality, viruses, giving advice, and not being responsible for the views of your employees. As providers of business email services, we want to help you get to grips with email disclaimers and the laws surrounding email communication. In this article we’ll be explaining –
- What is an email disclaimer?
- What it should include
- How they can help you
- What laws you must comply with for email marketing
What is a disclaimer in an email?
Let’s start with the basics, as research suggests that only 10% of recipients read the email disclaimers, and most of us will answer emails so quickly that we might not even see it’s there. However, most companies do have them and if you look carefully, you will see a block of text in a very small font below the company details of the person emailing you.
Chances are you won’t have read them, and would need to get your glasses to do so! If you did, you might just think they were legal jargon, but they are called disclaimers and are there to reduce the corporate responsibility on the company for whatever is said in the email, or attached to it.
Here’s an example of a relatively standard one –
This e-mail message may contain confidential or legally privileged information and is intended only for the use of the intended recipient(s). Any unauthorized disclosure, dissemination, distribution, copying or the taking of any action in reliance on the information herein is prohibited. E-mails are not secure and cannot be guaranteed to be error free as they can be intercepted, amended, or contain viruses. Anyone who communicates with us by e-mail is deemed to have accepted these risks. (Company name) is not responsible for errors or omissions in this message and denies any responsibility for any damage arising from the use of e-mail. Any opinion and other statement contained in this message and any attachment are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company.
As you can see from this email disclaimer, it covers a range of issues which might arise from the sending of an email and distances the company as a whole from any emailing faux pas. Now legally there is some doubt of how much it protects you, but it is a small step towards establishing an email policy which limits your liability.
What should an email disclaimer include?
This answer really depends on where you are based and what your company does. You need to think about the worst-case scenarios that could arise from an employee making mistakes or representing your company in a bad light via email. This could be –
- inadvertently agreeing to a business agreement/contract that they are not authorised to do
- sending confidential information to the wrong person
- sending out defamatory emails or expressing a view which is the opposite of the company’s mission and values
- accidentally sending a virus which brings down someone’s whole system
These are examples that probably every company could be at risk of, but if you deal with sensitive information, or offer professional advice or want to protect your copyright or trademark for example, then you may need to add extra elements in there to try to cover yourself.
How legally binding these statements will be, really depends upon the circumstances, but it is best practice to create a strong email disclaimer which relates to your company, your area and your risk areas. You should have this as part of your email policy and marketing strategy and implement it company wise in order to protect yourself the best that you can from legal complications.
How can an email disclaimer protect you?
One of the things you will most commonly see is a statement to say that the email is confidential and only intended for its recipients, but that anyone else who sees it is also bound to confidentiality. This is a common clause to include because it’s easy to send emails to the wrong person and also that if the recipient forwards on confidential information to another party, they should also keep it confidential.
Where you are offering advice, it is recommended to say that there are no guarantees about the veracity of the advice and that the email should not be a substitute for professional advice. The key here is that if one of your team sends professional advice which then proves to be wrong or cause some sort of harm, you do not want to be held responsible.
Another common one is that the recipient is responsible for scanning for viruses and the email could contain them, just in case an employee’s computer is infected and sends it on to other people.
Lastly you need to try to distance yourself from any bad behaviour from your employees in email. You do this by saying that this is the views of the individual, not the company and potentially that you have an email policy instructing employees not to send libellous, inappropriate or defamatory matter.
Discuss with your legal and IT team to define the best disclaimer for your company and whether you need to implement an email policy to further protect yourself from issues arising from emails. This is because in some areas and some cases these emails can be considered legally binding.
What laws you must comply with for email marketing
Online marketing should be lead generation centred and try to capture email addresses from our web visitors. These emails should be gained in accordance with data protection regulations and then used for email marketing.
As business owners we want to always be using email legally and this becomes more complicated when you use email marketing as part of your online marketing strategy. Then you have to think about anti-spam and data protection regulations to make sure you’re doing the right thing.
Interestingly, the CAN-SPAM Act does not differentiate between bulk email and individual email and covers “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service”. This means, it’s better to err on the side of caution when communicating with customers or potential customers, especially when you’re trying to sell something.
Anti-spam regulations vary from country to country but in the main the key aspects are that you must –
- Allow people to opt-in to your database to say they want to receive what you are sending
- Offer an easy way for them to opt-out of your list
- Take care of their data
- Don’t buy email lists where people have often not opted in for what you want to send them
- Ensure you include the company name, address and contact details
- Don’t try to deceive the recipients of your email in any way
Different rules apply in different areas, so check before you start trading in different countries what laws apply. For example, UK Limited companies must include their company registration number, registered address and a VAT number in corporate emails. Spain has some of the strictest data protection around and other countries vary widely in terms of their policy and the enforcement of any transgressions. The US penalties can be very steep, with penalties of over $43K for each email which violates the CAN-SPAM act. This is why it’s important to know your stuff and make sure you’re complying.
Email Services for Business
We know that email is a vital communication and marketing tool for business. When emails go down it is a disaster for productivity and businesses need to have excellent storage, security, connectivity and the option to send big files. This is why we have a dedicated business email service, so you don’t need to worry about expensive and difficult to maintain mail servers in-house.
Our Business Email Services includes 100% up-time assurance, mobile device connectivity, 25GB email storage, premium anti-spam and anti-virus, as well as tutorials, support and much, much more. We’ve got you covered!