Back in 2012 we heard that Companies House was going to take a harder line with companies that don’t meet the legal requirements in respect of business stationery. The message was clear – it is a criminal offence not to follow business stationery rules, and directors could face a fine of up to £1,000 if they fail to comply.
A quick reminder of what these legal requirements are:
All stationery, promotional material, business letters, order forms and websites must include:
- The company’s full name (including ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd’)
- Registered number and registered office address
- Where the company is registered (England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland).
Does the term “business letters” include email?
The term “business letters” here is interesting, because it is generally accepted that this includes email. This is why many companies insist on including a lengthy footer on every email, complete with a disclaimer that adds half a page of text to the message (despite there being no legal authority on the effectiveness of these notices in email messages).
These are often the same companies that fail to put this information on their websites and brochures… even though the rules clearly state “promotional materials”!
So are email footers really necessary?
My point here is not to bemoan the lack of statutory blurb on websites and brochures… far from it. I simply wonder if these long tedious footers on every email are really necessary.
I see no common sense reason why a simple “Tuesday at 10am?” email needs to be accompanied by all that boring blurb.
If the monkeys send an official document by email, such as a quote, invoice or formal letter, then it’s saved on our business letterhead template and sent as a PDF attachment. Surely that’s adequate?
What about on social media?
Things get more convoluted when we take a look at social media – should this statutory blurb be included on company social media pages? (I guess not, because Companies House don’t).
If the email footer brigade are right, then surely a business replying to a comment or message on social media should also come with that half-page disclaimer and official company details? (Or is this not “business correspondence”?)
…a GDPR risk?
However, I also read that WhatsApp’s storage of user data could mean that your organisation fails to comply with GDPR, leaving you potentially liable for charges of up to 4% of your global turnover.
So what’s my point?
I might be wrong but can’t find any evidence of £1,000 fines being handed out for sub-standard stationery, so I suggest that common sense is enough and we can dispense with those tedious email footers.
And an update would be welcome to “Signs, stationery and promotional material” page from the fine people at Companies House!
Let us know your thoughts…