Is There Any Point To Email Disclaimers And Confidentiality Footers?

We’ve all seen them, but we’ve rarely read them. Those confidentiality notices at the end of emails. Visual pollution in your inbox. Are they really necessary?
A recent email footer states:

CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE
This e-mail and any attachments are for the sole use of the intended recipients and contain information that may be confidential or legally privileged. If you have received this e-mail in error, please notify the sender by reply e-mail and delete the message. Any disclosure, copying, distribution, or use of this communication by someone other than the intended recipient is prohibited.

You wonder, what right does this person sending me a message have to tell me that I must immediately delete the message THEY may have sent me in error?

The great thing about AINEO Networks is that we service nearly a dozen law firms from both the United States and many other great countries. So we asked one attorney about this, who replied:
I’m in the camp that they don’t mean a darn thing, see and I agree with your assessment that it’s arrogant for a sender to threaten the receiver about a mistakenly addressed message.
He went on to quote an Economist magazine article that said,
Many disclaimers are, in effect, seeking to impose a contractual obligation unilaterally, and thus are probably unenforceable. This is clear in Europe, where a directive from the European Commission tells the courts to strike out any unreasonable contractual obligation on a consumer if he has not freely negotiated it. And a footer stating that nothing in the e-mail should be used to break the law would be of no protection to a lawyer or financial adviser sending a message that did suggest something illegal.

You can get the whole article here.

The conclusion from our legal friends is somewhat like the strange ‘Think before you print’ type of footers (that give the recipient the feeling that they are clueless of when to print a message or not….)  These disclaimers are meaningless.  It is best to focus on getting your contact details on a footer and taking care of your partners in a quick and positive way.

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