Skip to main content
« Back to Blog

Avoid Expensive Claims: Check Your Email Recipient

Watch your emails


The sheer volume of email makes keeping a check on it feel like an impossible task. Yet it’s frighteningly true that grounds for negligence or statutory penalties can come at the click of a mouse.

Several years ago, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) found Stoke-on-Trent Council in serious breach of the Data Protection Act after 11 emails were sent in December 2011. They included highly sensitive information relating to the care of a child and further information about the health of two adults and two other children. The emails should have been sent to a barrister who was instructed by Stoke Council. It was sent to a wrong address. Sensitive data should be sent over a secure network or encrypted, and the Council also provided no relevant training. And worse still, the council was fined £120,000. 

A few things can help: 

  • Decide whether junior staff should be allowed to send emails unsupervised in the organisation’s name. Would you allow a letter in the name of the firm to go out without it being checked and if not, why communicate with e-mail without any form of supervision? 
  • Check whether the informality of email has led to vital information being left out.
  • Have a clear policy on when to use email and when to go the whole hog and send a letter. And what is the harm of having an ineffective e-mail policy? 
  • Advisors rarely send out letters without checking that they are correctly addressed, free of errors and complete with the enclosures. Yet it happens much more often in email correspondence. Read through each email just as you would a letter, printing out if necessary.
  • File emails in a proper systematic way. Would you send out letters without filing them away? If so why allow staff to leave copies of outgoing emails correspondence unfiled?
  • Why allow unfettered access to the Internet and e-mail for private purposes? Would you allow similar staff to spend hours on the telephone making private calls?   

Think of the negligence claim or the fine above - 

and the risks of sending out emails to opponents when they are letters of advice to clients or inaccuracy of advice because it is rushed etc

The basic point is that e-mails do and can cause problems. They are common causes of negligence claims. Whilst volume is a problem, the above risks should not be ignored.  

If you need any advice or help, contact Karim.


Just in case you missed the other tips: