Legal requirements for company letterheads and email footers
This article was originally published in June 2017.
Did you know that your business email footer must contain specific pieces of information by law?
It may be surprising to some, but failure to include certain company details on your email signature and other official company communications, including letterheads and your website, could land your business in hot water. Specifically, companies that fail to comply could face a fine of up to £1,000.
The BCA (now FlexSA) posted guidelines relating to UK company email footers and communications back in 2014, which explained the information required to use on official company communications. That advice hasn’t changed, and it still refers to every private limited company (LTD), public limited company (PLC) and Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) operting in the UK today.
To re-cap, the UK Companies Act 2006 (amended 2007) states that company communications – including letterheads, order forms, company websites and business emails – must include the following information in legible characters:
- Your company name;
- Your company registration number;
- Your place of registration (e.g. Scotland or England & Wales);
- Your registered office address – note that this may be different to the office that you trade from.
This not only applies to company directors, it also applies to every member of your team who sends an external business email from your company. This information should also appear on your company website along with your letterheads, order forms and other official documentation.
6-(1) Every company shall disclose its registered name on-
(a)its business letters, notices and other official publications;
(b)its bills of exchange, promissory notes, endorsements and order forms;
(c)cheques purporting to be signed by or on behalf of the company;
(d)orders for money, goods or services purporting to be signed by or on behalf of the company;
(e)its bills of parcels, invoices and other demands for payment, receipts and letters of credit;
(f)its applications for licences to carry on a trade or activity; and
(g)all other forms of its business correspondence and documentation.
(2) Every company shall disclose its registered name on its websites.
Initially, there was some doubt as to whether this information was required on emails or not. However, given the widespread use of digital communications, this was resolved with an update to the Companies (Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2008, which came into effect on 1st October 2008.
This requirement was explained further within the ‘Trading Disclosures’ guidelines prepared by Pinsent Masons:
“In the same way, the regulations recognise that email has replaced many hard copy communications which companies used to send out. Whether a business letter, order form or any of the other documents caught by the regulations is sent in hard or soft copy form, it must contain the required details.”
Remember, it is not enough to provide a link to this information from an email footer. The Regulations provide that any ‘display’ or disclosure of information required by the Regulations must be “in characters that can be read with the naked eye.”
One way to guarantee compliance throughout your team is to create a standardised email footer and documentation template using legally mandated information. This should be centrally controlled and enforced.
- The Companies (Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2008
- Pinsent Masons’ dedicated legal guidance website, Out-Law.com
- Companies Act 2006
- Email Signatures: Are you playing by the rules? (FlexSA article)
9 June 2017
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