Email disclaimers: A comprehensive guide to maintaining legal compliance
What is an email disclaimer?
An email disclaimer is a block of text added to an outgoing business email. It appears as a separate element placed under a professional email signature. The reason for using an email disclaimer is simple: to avoid a fine or legal action.
The content of an email disclaimer will include a company’s name, registered office address, and company registration details. This is combined with a confidentiality notice such as the following:
Why might the law require me to have an email disclaimer?
An organization will include a legal disclaimer to:
Limit its liability for message content such as an employee sending defamatory statements or copyright infringement
Cover confidentiality breaches and protect exposure of private data
Highlight that an email does not form the basis of a legally binding contact
Protect against being liable for damages caused by negligent advice from an employee
Warn recipients of the possibility of an email carrying a virus
The specific content of any disclaimer will vary according to where your emails are going and when. Sections of an email disclaimer may require personalization such as the sender’s name to comply with certain laws.
The issues with email disclaimers
Businesses have been using legal disclaimers since the early days of email. They’ve been used for so long that some believe they carry no legal authority. The main issues people have with disclaimers in emails include:
Recipients ignoring the content
Email conversations getting flooded with disclaimer text
Disclaimer text looking unpleasant particularly if it’s too long
Some email clients such as OWA and Gmail restricting the character count so the disclaimer doesn’t fit
So, should you use email disclaimers on your messages or not? In one word, yes!
Every business email sent without a disclaimer text presents a risk to a company’s reputation. This could be from libelous comments, confidential data leaks, copyright infringement, and transmission of viral content.
Also, email disclaimers are legally required in North America and Europe. For example, the United States has the most complete set of disclaimer laws in the world. The Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) states that for regulatory compliance, a suitable legal disclaimer must be included in all email communications.
There’s also the reputational impact from non-compliance. Some laws have fines up to the seven-figure range such as with Canada's Anti-Spam Law (CASL). Without an email disclaimer, you risk a one-time fine of up to $10m Canadian dollars.
Email disclaimer laws in different regions
It’s also important to add an email disclaimer to internal messages, which should be different from the external one.
Email disclaimer best practices
In order to remain legally compliant without annoying your recipients, we recommend the following email disclaimer tips.
Place your disclaimer separately from your email signature. Below a promotional banner works best.
Keep the disclaimer font small so the email content is not taken over by a large block of text.
Use a web-safe font that looks professional and is easily readable against a light background.
Avoid adding too much text and making it too lengthy. If you need to include a lot of information, add a link to a longer version online.
Present the email disclaimer as text rather than rendering it as an image.
If you’re unsure what to include, consult a legal expert. Don’t just copy and paste a template you find online.
Email disclaimer laws can change, so make sure you keep up. What works in one country might not work in another.
To protect your business, always use a legal disclaimer on all emails. Even though email disclaimers don’t offer 100% protection from legal threats, they are still important for corporate compliance.
And the best way to enforce disclaimers on every message is to use email signature software. With central control, you ensure all corporate emails have a legal disclaimer, meaning you never have to worry about non-compliant messages leaving your organization again.