Disclaimers and Legal Warnings in E-mails
If you have used e-mail for any length of time, then you have probably encountered an e-mail containing rather scary legal jargon at the bottom of the posting.
Here is an example of a disclaimer notice at the end of an e-mail that I have received.
The information contained in this communication may be confidential or legally privileged and is intended only for the recipient named above.
If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of this communication or its contents is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please immediately advise the sender and delete the original and any copies from your computer system.
Do These Legal Disclaimers Carry Any Legal Teeth?
Ryan Singel recently investigated this question in an article entitled “Burning Question: Why do emails contain those legal warnings?” published in the Jan 2011 edition of Wired Magazine (p. 52). His conversation with Cory Doctorow, a digital rights activist, revealed that these disclaimers have no legal teeth at all. In other words, if you sent your e-mail to the wrong address by accident then the disclaimer would not be legally binding on the recipient.
Are the Disclaimers Worthless?
Ironically, the disclaimers are not necessarily worthless. At minimum, they would suggest that you care about confidentiality when dealing with client issues. For the article stated, if your e-mail lacks the disclaimer then it could be argued that you didn’t care who read the document.
Bottom Line–Action Step
Keep or add the disclaimer as it might provide you some protection if your e-mail gets into the wrong hands (at minimum it would show you care.) But don’t bet your life or business on the disclaimer actually doing anything. Spend your time making sure that you are sending your missives to the right recipient and be careful what you put in writing.
Stephen M. Vantassel, CWCP, ACP specializes in wildlife damage management and the companies that resolve conflicts with wildlife. He is NOT an attorney but can help with consultation, writing, research, and expert testimony.
This post goes out to the hardw0rking wildlife control operators (WCO) who have entered the digital age. While many of you prefer sloshing through a beaver pond to staring at a computer screen, I want to commend you for getting out of your comfort zone and embracing technology. Unfortunately, with every technological advance there are negative side effects.
Failure to Respond to E-mails
Wildlife control is a time intensive business. Unlike pest control, many activities in wildlife control can’t rely on toxicants which kill the animal and allow it to die out of site. Return visits and extended stops at customer locations are the norm, not the exception for wildlife control. Frequently, 12 hour days reach 15 and there is simply no time to boot up the computer, let alone answer e-mail.
If this sort of time constraint affects your business from time to time, then relax it’s normal. it is acceptable to wait a couple of days to respond to e-mails. After all, if the customer really needs you, he/she should call your cell phone.
If you know that you will be out straight or on vacation for several days, then it is absolutely necessary to let your customers know that you are unavailable. An auto-responder e-mail, is acceptable provided it explains when you might be able to respond. I would also place a notice of your situation on the contact page of your site.
Otherwise, if you have regular difficulty responding to e-mails, do yourself a favor, don’t make it available.
In addition, if people e-mail you, get the auto-respond message, wait a few days and still don’t hear from you, then your business is losing credibility. I bring this issue up because I know of a company that I have e-mailed from time to time in regards to a project and I regularly get the auto-responder blithely telling me how my e-mail is important and he will get back in touch. I would have thought the e-mail was great if the person really followed up in a couple of days. But I have waited weeks, even following up with phone calls, all to no avail. As they say in Hollywood, when the phone don’t ring you know it was me. Well that is how I feel with this unnamed company.
Bottom Line Business Tip
1. Announce ways for people to get in touch with you that you actually follow up with.
2. E-mail can wait up to 24 hours. If the person really needs you quickly, then he/she could call.
3. Auto-responders only help your business if you actually follow what you say in the auto-response message. Otherwise, they simply annoy your callers.
Stephen M. Vantassel, CWCP, ACP has written dozens of articles on wildlife damage management topics and advises clients on wildlife damage management issues.