Not only that, but they’re legally inadequate. Which is why we refuse to use them.

Does your email have a tail? That high-registered linguistic nonsense at the end of a message alerting recipients that the personal views are not the views of the company; or that the information is privileged, confidential, and should be returned to sender and deleted?

In retrospect, we’ve definitely all received emails with disclaimer footers, like “This email was intended for the recipients only” or “Our company accepts no liability for this email’s content”. It turns out they’re not just frustratingly annoying—but they actually hold no legal weight whatsoever.

A recent article published by The Economist explains the truth about these strenuous, lethargic, but very widespread email signatures:

[Email disclaimers] are assumed to be a wise precaution. But they are mostly, legally speaking, pointless. Lawyers and experts on internet policy say no court case has ever turned on the presence or absence of such an automatic e-mail footer in America, the most litigious of rich countries.

Many disclaimers are, in effect, seeking to impose a contractual obligation unilaterally, and thus are probably unenforceable. This is clear in Europe, where a directive from the European Commission tells the courts to strike out any unreasonable contractual obligation on a consumer if he has not freely negotiated it. And a footer stating that nothing in the e-mail should be used to break the law would be of no protection to a lawyer or financial adviser sending a message that did suggest something illegal.

The journalist continues to go on to explain that these disclaimers are most likely so common because companies see other companies using them, and then decide they should too. If you’re using these in your business emails, you can probably get rid of them—you’ll make all your contacts a whole lot happier, without making yourself any less protected by the law.

Which is why we did it – since the start of TechFly we’ve always kept the confidentiality notices at the bottom of our emails because we presumed that they carried legal weight and effect, but actually they really don’t. And its safe to say it makes our 50-reply emails so much shorter if we need to print them out for hard copy too.

About The Author


Developer, videographer, photographer and a stickler for English grammar.

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