You know those really irritating emails where the sender tells you what you need to know in two lines, and which then have pages full of corporate legal mumbo-jumbo which appears to say that nothing in the email can be trusted anyway? If you think that the sender’s company has insisted on all this garbage being added because they’ve got in-house lawyers and want you to know it, you’re probably not far wrong. But you do need certain information on every business email, and looking through my inbox, I reckon most companies don’t include it.
If you’re a UK private or public company, or an LLP, the relevant legislation is the Companies (Trading Disclosures) Regulations, which carry a £1000 fine for non-compliance. This has been updated in the last few weeks, so you can use that as an excuse for revising what you’re doing.
The key thing to remember is that although email is regularly used for one-word replies, which traditional business letters never were, emails are still business letters. And business letters need to have four key pieces of information:
1. Your company’s registered name;
2. The place of registration in the UK;
3. Its registration number; and
4. The address of its registered office.
Interestingly, an invoice, which most of us take greater care to ensure has all of our information on it, is not a business letter, and does not require all of the above!
If you’re creating a standard email signoff (or email footer), what else might be added? Obviously, you’ll want to include your contact details: name, job title, company and telephone number; I think it’s good form to add your email address too, because although people can just click “reply”, they might look up this email message in the future just to find your email address for a new correspondence thread, to which they wouldn’t want to click “reply”. If your email address is included, they can just click on that. I’m not sure if there are email reading applications which require email addresses to be prefixed with “mailto:” any more, but it doesn’t hurt.
Of course it makes sense to include your company website address for a bit of publicity, but it’s a real waste if you’re not using this space to make more specific offers. You have the attention of someone you’re doing business with – surely there’s something you have of relevance to them? I’ve been using my email signoff to publicise this blog for the past few months, and I know I’ve picked up many new regular readers this way.
Finally, all that legal stuff. Do you need it? Well, you can predict what the legal opinion is going to be: maybe.
There are two elements to all of this. One (“confidentiality”) is aimed at discouraging your recipients from revealing the content of the email to the world. The other (“disclaimer”) is aimed at protecting you from being held liable for mistakes you might have made in the email. In both cases, there don’t seem to be any judicial precedents which suggest these are going to stand up in court, so your decision to include them will probably depend on your attitude to (and experiences with) the legal world.