Dear Lifehacker, Almost every business email has a disclaimer telling people not to forward it or read it if it has been sent accidentally. Often this is a compulsory part of your email signature. Do these terms have any legal standing?
You know the type of disclaimer I’m talking about. Usually they has wording along the lines of:
This message is intended for the addressee named and may contain privileged information or confidential information or both. If you are not the intended recipient please delete it and notify the sender.
What are your options if you’re accidentally CC’d on one of these emails? Are you legally obligated to obey the disclaimer, or is it just empty posturing? Cheers, Legally Curious
If you’re looking for in-depth legal advice, you really need to talk to a practising lawyer. With that said, here’s a basic overview of the rules as we understand them.
In Australia, the terms and conditions attached to emails are only enforceable if they refer to established laws. For example, failing to notify an intended recipient about their email isn’t unlawful, but selling the confidential contents to a third party usually is.
In other words, email disclaimers aren’t binding in a court of law unless illegal activity is involved. So why do they exist? In short, they help to reduce the sender’s liability from any potential fallout. Plus, it’s just good company practice.
You can rest assured that you aren’t legally obligated to do anything if an email gets sent to you erroneously. However, it’s still good manners to alert the sender about an email that wasn’t intended for you. This only takes a few seconds of effort.
Also bear in mind that you need to be extra careful with any email disclaimers set up by your place of employment. Failing to follow them could violate your contractual obligations and result in disciplinary action.
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