back to article BAN email footers – they WASTE my INK, wails Ctrl+P MP

Tory MP Sir Alan Duncan has begged Parliament to bring in a bill banning the reams of legal blurb at the bottom of emails in order to save precious Whitehall ink when, er, printing out one-line emails. "We have all been there. A short email comes in from a friend, colleague or company and we hit print. Then we look in horror …

  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    What goes around, comes around

    Didn't the same MPs vote for a mandatory inclusion of company registration details in an email footer? Left hand, may I introduce you to the right hand, you should probably get together and figure out wtf are you doing.

    1. Ben Liddicott

      Re: What goes around, comes around

      Correct, Business Names Act 1885, Section 4.

      If you also want a disclaimer, this is the shortest one I have been able to come up with, feel free to use or adapt it:

      Trading Name is a trading name of Trading Company Limited, 1 Main Street, Fairfax, FX1 1FX. Registered in England and Wales, number 11111111.

      This email may contain confidential or legally protected information. If you think you may have received it in error, please reply to the sender to let them know.

  2. LaeMing Silver badge
    Meh

    Prints .... emails?

    I very-occasionally do have reason to print one at work, but it is far from the norm.

    Having said that, I do agree that the legalise boilerplate at the bottom of emails is generally little more than company lawyers masturbating their false sense of contribution.

    1. Anonymous Cowardess

      Esp. One-Liners

      Who prints an email that says "Fancy lunch, mate?"

      1. Just Enough

        Re: Esp. One-Liners

        You need it printed so that it can be signed off by all parties, per Parliamentary regulations of 1864. It's proof that the sender (hereafter known as party A) has offered lunch to the recipient (party B). Party A would be in breach of contract if party A failed to have make available adequate funds to recompense the tavern (party C) at the termination of said meal. Party B has agreed to accept the offer of party A, with the caveat that they at no point improperly solicited this offer, and that they will declare it by the end of the fiscal year through the proper audit channels. Acceptance of this offer does not oblige party B to reciprocate said offer at any time, but will instead be at party B's discretion.

        The email then must be retained in official archives for 500 years.

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Megaphone

        Re: Esp. One-Liners

        Someone who tells their secretary to print all their emails and put them in his in tray.

        And because that someone is an idiot and can't use a mail client, choose which e-mails need to be printed and which don't, and use print marked selection for those which do, the solution is, of course, a bill.

        Unfortunately these someones are drafting laws which affect all areas of computing and the Internet.

      3. SolidSquid

        Re: Esp. One-Liners

        Was thinking the same thing. Only case I can think of is if he doesn't read emails unless his secretary prints them off for him first

        1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Esp. One-Liners

          > Only case I can think of is if he doesn't read emails unless his secretary prints them off for him first

          It's worse than that. He has his secretary print off his emails and then *fax* them to him!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Prints .... emails?

      Also has he not heard of cut and paste to a word document, or when you hit print choosing "current page only" or "page range".

      Seems excessive to need a new bill of parliament - surely there is more important laws that need passing?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Prints .... emails?

        > Also has he not heard of cut and paste to a word document

        Exactly! Or scanning a document and pasting the resulting .BMP into an Excel spreadsheet?

        Hopefully not. :-|

      2. Fungus Bob Silver badge

        Re: Prints .... emails?

        "Seems excessive to need a new bill of parliament - surely there is more important laws that need passing?"

        Like a law banning politicians from printing emails...

      3. Nick Pettefar

        Re: Prints .... emails?

        Those twats that use Word as an e-mail client.....

    3. KitD

      Re: Prints .... emails?

      Put an image of the EURion constellation in the signature. That should "solve" any printing issues.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    HEAR HEAR!!!

    Especially when said legalese tells the world + sundry that the email may contain "confidential" information and was sent to a publicly-archived mailing list! It seems to be the corporate fashion these days, as is HTML in email.

    I noticed recently my email signature started to show a long legalese blurb, and it was the first thing to go. I participate on far too many publicly archived mailing lists as part of my day-to-day job to have this hindrance to communication.

    I'm also the office Luddite with plain-text emails.

    A few reasons why legal disclaimers should not be placed in email signatures:

    - They are too long to fit in an email signature, which should be approximately 4 lines long, 6 at an ABSOLUTE maximum

    - The content often presumes facts about the email and its intended audience which mostly wind up not being the case or places restrictions which are not appropriate for the intended audience

    - They appear AFTER the email content, so it's only when you get to the footer do you realise "Oops, I shouldn't have been reading that!"

    Due to the last two points, I would suspect they have next to no legal value. Pretty sure for a legal document to stand, the person has to see it and agree to it first before it becomes binding.

    Moreover, email is inherently plain-text unless you've taken steps to ensure privacy (e.g. using industry-standard tools like S/MIME or OpenPGP). Unless you do this, I think it unreasonable to assume any kind of confidentiality over email.

    1. Raumkraut

      Re: HEAR HEAR!!!

      <font face="Comic Sans MS" size="16" color="hotpink" >Me too!</font>

      "~-,._.,-~"~-,._.,-~"~- Raumkraut -~"~-,._.,-~"~-,._.,-~"~-

      Posted by Stuart Longland on 8 Jan 2015:

      > Especially when said legalese tells the world + sundry that the email may contain "confidential" information and was sent to a publicly-archived mailing list! It seems to be the corporate fashion these days, as is HTML in email.

      > I noticed recently my email signature started to show a long legalese blurb, and it was the first thing to go. I participate on far too many publicly archived mailing lists as part of my day-to-day job to have this hindrance to communication.

      > I'm also the office Luddite with plain-text emails.

      > A few reasons why legal disclaimers should not be placed in email signatures:

      > - They are too long to fit in an email signature, which should be approximately 4 lines long, 6 at an ABSOLUTE maximum

      > - The content often presumes facts about the email and its intended audience which mostly wind up not being the case or places restrictions which are not appropriate for the intended audience

      > - They appear AFTER the email content, so it's only when you get to the footer do you realise "Oops, I shouldn't have been reading that!"

      > Due to the last two points, I would suspect they have next to no legal value. Pretty sure for a legal document to stand, the person has to see it and agree to it first before it becomes binding.

      > Moreover, email is inherently plain-text unless you've taken steps to ensure privacy (e.g. using industry-standard tools like S/MIME or OpenPGP). Unless you do this, I think it unreasonable to assume any kind of confidentiality over email.

    2. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Re: HEAR HEAR!!!

      Due to the last two points, I would suspect they have next to no legal value. Pretty sure for a legal document to stand, the person has to see it and agree to it first before it becomes binding.

      Yup, pretty much. As it accompanies the email it's has no power over you what-so-ever, the sender opted to send you that information (quite possibly without having ever communicated with you before hand) and therefore you've not been able to negotiate terms/agree a consideration etc.

      Although they're often written to look like a contract, no legal contract has been created, so they serve to do nothing but make those who don't know any better feel warm and fuzzy.

      1. Ben Liddicott

        Re: HEAR HEAR!!!

        No, you correctly note that the disclaimer can't form a contract, but a duty of confidentiality can also arise other than from a contract, especially related to receipt of information inadvertently. The case is Coco v A N Clark (Engineers) Ltd, 1968.

        http://swarb.co.uk/coco-v-a-n-clark-engineers-ltd-chd-1968/

        The common law equitable rules are essentially: that the information is not public; that it is not trivial and has value or the potential for harm; and that a reasonable person in the circumstances would think that there was a duty of confidentiality.

        If, for example, someone accidentally emails you somebody else's medical records then I would say that all the above are clearly met, and you are under a duty not to disclose the information.

        Again, if you receive an unsolicited CV from an agency, it will say in the disclaimer that it is sent in confidence, whether in those words or otherwise. You don't need to have invited the confidence for it to be a confidence.

        And again, information may be legally privileged, and if received in a work capacity DPA rules may apply.

        An email disclaimer may be technically redundant in many cases (though actually not in the CV case above) but it is a useful reminder to the recipient to have regard to the possibility of a duty of confidence, especially if - as Ben Tasker appears to - he believes that there can't possibly be one.

    3. Ben Liddicott

      Re: HEAR HEAR!!!

      No.

      Length: The footer must by law be included in most business emails, and the legally mandated information can easily exceed six lines.

      Confidentiality

      If you send the message directly to the public MX, you have the same expectation of confidentiality as if you sent it first class to their mailroom. If you encrypt the connection using SMTP/TLS you have the same expectation of confidentiality as if you sent it to their mailroom in a locked container. Either way it is a pretty strong expectation of confidentiality. This is because confidentiality is a legal obligation not to misuse information, it is not primarily about technical measures but social and legal ones.

      Legalese

      I agree that the legalese is often bullshit but that's for two reasons, neither of them being the ones you noted.

      1) Confidential information often (usually?) remains confidential even if it is accidentally disclosed to someone who shouldn't have had it. That person will often also have a duty not to disclose the information e.g. under the data protection act if it is personal information, or on pain of contempt of court if it is to do with court proceedings, or under common law equity rules. In these cases the legalese is unnecessary. All they need to say is "This email may contain confidential or legally privileged information". Even that may be unnecessary depending on the circumstances.

      2) If the legalese says "for the sole use of the addressee" then it is worse than useless because a) it is often not for the sole use of the addressee, and b) because if it is accidentally misaddressed it may not even be for the use of the addressee at all. All they need to say is "If you think you may have received this by accident please tell us so we can sort it".

      However I am not a lawyer, and clearly there are lawyers who think long legalese disclaimers are necessary.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: HEAR HEAR!!!

        > If you send the message directly to the public MX, you have the same expectation of confidentiality as if you sent it first class to their mailroom. If you encrypt the connection using SMTP/TLS you have the same expectation of confidentiality as if you sent it to their mailroom in a locked container.

        If you send a message using bog standard SMTP you have the same expectation of confidentiality as sending a postcard. This may be routed through an arbitrary number of mail rooms to get to it's final destination, all of whom read the postcard.

        If you send a message using SSL/TLS then it's like the postman carrying the postcard around in a locked box, but unlocking it and taking out the postcard when he delivers it. It's ONLY the transportation that's encrypted. The arbitrary number of mail rooms mentioned above all still read the postcard.

        If you want any expectation of privacy in email then you need to be actually encrypting the email with something like PGP.

        1. Ben Liddicott

          Re: HEAR HEAR!!!

          If you send it directly to their MX from your outgoing server, you are handing it off directly to their nominated server, which will be run by people who owe a duty of confidentiality to the recipient, whether as an employee or as a contractor like MessageLabs. There will be no arbitrary SMTP servers in between, only the ones the recipient has arranged for.

          Only deep-packet inspection is going to read the message and that is illegal and more akin to steaming open the envelope than to a postcard.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: HEAR HEAR!!!

            If you send it directly to their MX from your outgoing server, you are handing it off directly to their nominated server, which will be run by people who owe a duty of confidentiality to the recipient, whether as an employee or as a contractor like MessageLabs. There will be no arbitrary SMTP servers in between, only the ones the recipient has arranged for.

            I only just saw this, so here comes the late reply.

            Depending on your infrastructure, you may or may not be in a position to send directly to their MX. Many ISPs intercept or block direct SMTP traffic as a means of mitigating spam and malware (amongst other things), forcing their users to route SMTP traffic through their server.

            I'll let you join the dots from here.

            1. Ben Liddicott

              Re: HEAR HEAR!!!

              Right, IF.

              And even then the sender has a contract with the ISP which requires the ISP to keep activity confidential. In what way does this mean there is no expectation of privacy?

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: HEAR HEAR!!!

        "If you send the message directly to the public MX, you have the same expectation of confidentiality as if you sent it first class to their mailroom. If you encrypt the connection using SMTP/TLS you have the same expectation of confidentiality as if you sent it to their mailroom in a locked container."

        No. If you send it without encryption you have the same expectation of confidentiality as if you sent it on a postcard.

        This is an expectation which we need to improve on with a new generation of email protocol.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: HEAR HEAR!!!

          > This is an expectation which we need to improve on with a new generation of email protocol.

          You mean, make it more expected that it's like sending a postcard?

          Email by Pastebin.org? :)

      3. Skoorb

        Re: HEAR HEAR!!!

        I personally love the ones that say that the sender cannot enter into a contact or make any representation on behalf of the company they work for. Stuck on the bottom of a purchase order email from their procurement department...

        Great stuff there.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: HEAR HEAR!!!

        > All they need to say is "If you think you may have received this by accident please tell us so we can sort it".

        If you have received something by accident and are someone who tends to follow customary social norms, you will let the sender know. If you are not that kind of person, you will ignore any request to the effect anyway, so no, you don't need to put that in.

        If I were to have any form of disclaimer, it would read: "If you have received this by mistake, I apologise for the irruption and for being a careless idiot. Sorry."

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: HEAR HEAR!!!

        No.

        Length: The footer must by law be included in most business emails, and the legally mandated information can easily exceed six lines.

        "By law"? What law?

        I'd think full name, position, a contact phone number and a website URL is sufficient. That will easily fit into 4 lines.

        Confidentiality

        If you send the message directly to the public MX, you have the same expectation of confidentiality as if you sent it first class to their mailroom. If you encrypt the connection using SMTP/TLS you have the same expectation of confidentiality as if you sent it to their mailroom in a locked container. Either way it is a pretty strong expectation of confidentiality. This is because confidentiality is a legal obligation not to misuse information, it is not primarily about technical measures but social and legal ones.

        Then it's probably better to be explicit and up-front about it at the start of the email. Tell them in the first few lines that this email DOES in fact contain confidential and/or privileged material. i.e. have an email template especially to use on those occasions.

        Not a "by the way this MIGHT (or might NOT) contain", be explicit. What's confidential, where is it, who may see it. A generic vague wordy blurb at the bottom serves no one.

        Legalese

        I agree that the legalese is often bullshit but that's for two reasons, neither of them being the ones you noted.

        1) Confidential information often (usually?) remains confidential even if it is accidentally disclosed to someone who shouldn't have had it. That person will often also have a duty not to disclose the information e.g. under the data protection act if it is personal information, or on pain of contempt of court if it is to do with court proceedings, or under common law equity rules. In these cases the legalese is unnecessary. All they need to say is "This email may contain confidential or legally privileged information". Even that may be unnecessary depending on the circumstances.

        Hmmm mmm, and yes, those public mail archiving packages do read and respect those legalese footers don't they?

        http://comments.gmane.org/gmane.comp.java.sonar.general/39778

        Oops. That's not an isolated example either.

        2) If the legalese says "for the sole use of the addressee" then it is worse than useless because a) it is often not for the sole use of the addressee, and b) because if it is accidentally misaddressed it may not even be for the use of the addressee at all. All they need to say is "If you think you may have received this by accident please tell us so we can sort it".

        However I am not a lawyer, and clearly there are lawyers who think long legalese disclaimers are necessary.

        They do, because often they are paid to write them.

        Once again, if it truly is for the addressee, then it should say so up the top before someone reads something that isn't meant for them.

        I don't know about you, but I read my emails from the top down (for this reason I also place my replies either inline or below quoted text). I do not read from the email signature going up. This information needs to be made known before any significant disclosure takes place.

        1. Ben Liddicott

          Re: HEAR HEAR!!!

          "By law"? What law?

          I'd think full name, position, a contact phone number and a website URL is sufficient. That will easily fit into 4 lines.

          By the Business Names Act, 1985. Unfortunately the law doesn't care what you think is sufficient.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: HEAR HEAR!!!

            "By law"? What law?

            I'd think full name, position, a contact phone number and a website URL is sufficient. That will easily fit into 4 lines.

            By the Business Names Act, 1985. Unfortunately the law doesn't care what you think is sufficient.

            So you're basing this on a law that predates email? This is not the post.

            Moreover, if people did put the sort of disclaimers on their letters that they insist on with their emails, the humble envelope would have gone the way of the dodo with all the reams of paper being jammed in there.

            Some of these disclamers would take up as much as a third of a A4 sheet of paper. I think you'll find that what is included in many cases is simply not necessary.

            Perhaps you'd like to point out the particular rule in that law that states that a legal disclaimer must be included?

            1. Ben Liddicott

              Re: HEAR HEAR!!!

              "So you're basing this on a law that predates email?"

              No, because email dates from the 1960s, and was used commercially before SMTP was invented.

              I said "the legally mandated information can easily exceed six lines". Not in every case, but in an LLP with fewer than 20 partners all partners have to be named, as well as a service address given, which together can easily exceed six lines of 72 characters.

              I never said that the long disclaimers seen were necessary, in fact above I have criticised them and proposed a shorter version for those that want one.

  4. king of foo

    can we ban printers instead?

    For stuff you absolutely cannot live without on paper, ressurrect the awe and wonder of the dot matrix... Ah, that beautiful screachy sound... and that greenish paper...

    1. Neal Stephenson
      Thumb Up

      Re: can we ban printers instead?

      9 or 24 pin ?

      1. king of foo

        Re: can we ban printers instead?

        Hmmm. 9 by default, but a senior exec can use the single 24 pin variant if he/she wants to feel special.

      2. P. Lee Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: can we ban printers instead?

        The Epson FX-80 please, or an LX-80 otherwise.

        Mine's the one with the copy of Brøderbund's Print Shop.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: can we ban printers instead?

          Ha...I too had an FX-80 but finally replaced with a BJ-10...Happy days

          1. yoganmahew

            Re: can we ban printers instead?

            OKI microline with loo-roll paper feed!

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: can we ban printers instead?

            BJ's in the workplace are generally frowned upon now.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. 's water music Silver badge

              Re: can we ban printers instead?

              BJ's in the workplace are generally frowned upon now.

              Not by me they're not

        2. joeW

          Re: can we ban printers instead?

          Star LC-10 or GTFO.

          1. Hellcat

            Re: can we ban printers instead?

            LC24-10 hooked upto an Acorn Archimedies A3000.

            Fantastic little printer. Had my dad printing his school reports on carbon-copy paper years before anyone else started. It's all the norm now, but on multiple pages since lasers can't do CC.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: can we ban printers instead?

        "9 or 24 pin ?"

        I suggest my first ever printer. A Seikosha GP-80 that was incredibly slow and noisy.

        Although nominally a 7 pin printer, it used a curved "hammer" to strike the ribbon/paper but had no platen as we normally know them. The platen was a rapidly spinning bar behind the paper with a profile of a 5 pointed star. This means that each and every individual printed dot required a separate hammer strike. Imagine using a daisy-wheel or golfball printer as a dot matrix printer using just the full stop character to "draw" each letter.

        1. Mike 16 Silver badge

          Re: Seikosha GP-80

          Thank you! I saw (heard) that shrieking wonder at a CES in the 80s, and nobody seems to believe me when I tell them about it. "Surely nobody would be so daft!".

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Seikosha GP-80

            "I saw (heard) that shrieking wonder at a CES in the 80s"

            It was also sold in a slightly wider config to take standard tractor feed paper by Tandy as the TRS Lineprinter VII so I would imagine that as the cheapest of the Tandy line it was probably a decent seller at least in the USA.

    2. swampdog

      Re: can we ban printers instead?

      Got a Citizen 120D here that's been flashing "out of paper" for nearly a decade.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Easy solution

    --

    This is a signature, proper email clients will know this by the first line of this comment and therefore should not be printing anything after it. If not, get a better email client.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Easy solution

      Unfortunately this is not standardised. If it were, then people could add whatever crap they wanted either, and I could set my email client to remove the reams of text and pointless graphics. I couldn't give a shit what certifications you have, what linkedin groups you belong to etc. etc.

  6. imanidiot Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Just

    seriously, just -->

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Meh

    It's very easy to fix this, y'know...

    ...just put a link in the foot of all emails sent through your company (or organisation, government, or whatever you are) server to your standard email disclaimer, which you then host on your website.

    Job done.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's very easy to fix this, y'know...

      Not considered permissible I'm afraid (at least, not considered permissible by lawyers...). The law says the registered address (and a few other bits - absolutely nothing about legal disclaimers) must be on the communication (letter, email, etc.) and visible. Putting a link in on your email to your website holding the text does not conform to the requirements (in other's opinion).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Joke

        Re: It's very easy to fix this, y'know...

        What if you do it this way:

        https://www.verysnarky.us.na.earth/contactinfo?name=Johns_Trading_Company&address1=1155_Dead_End_Rd&address2=13th_floor&address3=Kingston,_Jamacia&Phone=+1-876-922-2842

        ps. Don't call the Kingston Police department...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's very easy to fix this, y'know...

        > The law says the registered address (and a few other bits - absolutely nothing about legal disclaimers) must be on the communication (letter, email, etc.) and visible.

        Yup, but that's the business details. Personally, I don't find including those details a bad thing (on relevant emails only, no need to leave it there on non-business "how about lunch" type emails).

        As for the "confidentiality" disclaimers... I have politely advised a few clients in the past that they are rude and unnecessary, if not counter-productive outright. I certainly do not have anything of the sort in my business emails.

        1. LaeMing Silver badge

          Re: It's very easy to fix this, y'know...

          I have always instinctively deleted my auto footer on emails that don't need them. Usually if the footer is longer than the email's content it just looks weird!

  8. Phil W

    Obligations

    Some of the stuff included in email signatures is there because there is a legal obligation for it to be. Perhaps not all the legal waffle is required, but a certain amount of signature content is.

    What a lot of people don't realise is that under the Companies Act 2006 Private Limited, Public Limited or Limited Liability companies (so most companies in effect), email correspondence to people outside your organisation must include your company name, registration number, place of registration and registered office address. This is the same as the requirements for hard copy letterheads and order forms in the Companies Act 1985.

    Many of course do have this on hard copy correspondence but are often missing one or more or all of these elements when it comes to emails.

    http://www.out-law.com/page-5536

    Of course this wouldn't apply to interdepartmental emails within the government, but turning signatures on and off all the time is a pain, and of course as others have said why print emails at all?

    The only time I've ever printed emails is if they're required for a meeting, some form of disciplinary procedure or in response to a DPA SAR.

    1. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: Obligations

      Perhaps, but we still don't need seven JPGs saying "we are <spurious award org> company of the year, as voted by the CEO's mates down the pub."

      Then you have to hunt through all the attachments trying to find the one you actually want.

      Use email sigs for what they were designed for: pithy quotes.

      --

      This post is only to be read by the intended recipient. If you are not that person, you are required by law to eat it, then shoot yourself to maintain confidentiality. No part of this posting should be regarded as legally binding or pithy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Obligations

        > Use email sigs for what they were designed for: pithy quotes.

        Personally, I have a sort of masochistic fondness for esr's outrageous if not outright preposterous, and totally inappropriate in context, political statements in his email signatures.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Obligations

        @ P.Lee -

        re pithy quotes: Mine is five lines long, consisting:

        Line1: Blank

        Line 2: Name

        Line 3: Blog address

        Line 4: Social Media address

        Line 5: Pithy Quote (in this case: "Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for thou art crunchy and good with ketchup!"

        And that's it. Granted, there are no legal tongue-twisters, denials, dismissals, denouncements, or discombobulations, but wtf. It's my sig, and I'll play if I want to ;-)

      3. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Re: Obligations

        May I *snarf* that?

    2. janimal

      Why print e-mails?

      Most of us don't have any need to print e-mails it is true. However the government really does need to.

      It is necessary to archive the machinations of government on a medium not tied to a particular technology. For transparency, legal and historical reasons.

      His idea is not at all unreasonable simply on cost and efficiency grounds.

    3. Dr Who

      Re: Obligations

      The most offensive stuff is not the mandatory company information but the disclaimer and confidentiality notices, which are often enormous. You'll notice from the Out-law article you posted (which is excellent and one I often refer people to) that these notices are to all intents and purposes pointless and carry no legal weight. They should never be included in a routine email footer.

    4. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Obligations

      I seem to remember that in Outlook it's possible to set one sig for external contacts, and a different one for contacts in your domain.

      Personally I just have two lines of ascii with my phone number and address, which is handy because I can never remember the post code here at work.

    5. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Obligations

      It's only a legal requirement because someone passed a law saying it should be. It can just as easily be made not a requirement.

      Better still, put the company information in headers where it can be used properly instead of in free text.

      1. Phil W

        Re: Obligations

        "It's only a legal requirement because someone passed a law saying it should be."

        You mean just like every other law.

        "Better still, put the company information in headers where it can be used properly instead of in free text."

        Um no. The whole point of the law is that the company information is readily available and human readable so that when receiving email from a company, particularly one you haven't dealt with before, you can quickly see any information you might need to know about who they are.

    6. gryphon

      Re: Obligations

      And it is amazing the number of companies (some very large) that still don't comply with the legislation even though the theoretical penalty is £1000 per instance. I've never actually seen anyone prosecuted for it though that I can find.

      And to unfortunately go Daily Fail this is another example of the UK implementing an EU directive when nobody else, apart from Germany who also want directors names listed for some reason, has bothered themselves.

      Also a lot of websites don't comply with the ecommerce directives which requires the same information to be accessible. Usually buried way down under T&C's or some esoteric version of Contact Us.

      1. Dale 3

        'theoretical penalty is £1000 per instance'

        Heh, they must have the ASA enforcing that one.

    7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Obligations

      "What a lot of people don't realise is that under the Companies Act 2006 Private Limited, Public Limited or Limited Liability companies (so most companies in effect), email correspondence to people outside your organisation must include your company name, registration number, place of registration and registered office address. This is the same as the requirements for hard copy letterheads and order forms in the Companies Act 1985."

      Thanks for this reminder. Now who is responsible for enforcing this?

      What I have in mind is all the companies, especially financial, who follow up any contact with marketing spam, usually send as from themselves but by a marketing company. And often with no other mention of their own domain other than noreply@crassbank.com as the From: address. Whose company info should be on such a missive? The bank's? The marketing spammer's? If the marketing spammer puts the bank's info on something they send is this an offence all of its own?

      The FCA, bless their toothless grimaces, are likely to take no interest in banks training their customers to respond to phishing. But an offence under the Companies Act might get some action.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Obligations

        I like your thinking.. When you do need to provide an email address to a business for a legitimate reason, there are still far too many (supposedly reputable) businesses who breach the Data Protection Act by using wording deliberately designed to make it as confusing as possible for you to deny permission for them to spam you (best practice should be that "nospam" is the default setting - is a customer whom you cause irritation to by spamming them unwelcomely likely to look favourably on your business for future purchases?), and who then sign up you up to their spam list anyway (without even seeking proper opt-in confirmation).

        The whole point of the DPA and PECR was to ensure that businesses did the right thing and didn't misuse your data in the first, rather than for you to then have to actively chase up all the misusers and demand to be unsubscribed.

        Even when you manage to supposedly get them to unsubscribe your address, all too often you mysteriously still receive a further spam around a year later - enough to be annoying, but not quite enough to make it worthwhile expending the time trying to get all legally heavy via the ICO (who toothlessly demand that you try to negotiate with the criminal (spammer) first, hmm). It would be interesting to know whether repeated non-permitted spamming could also constitute some form of harrassment, too, with potentially even more serious penalties?

        The more legal weaponry we have to use against spammers, the better. If only any of it was actually properly enforced..

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Obligations

      > turning signatures on and off all the time is a pain

      No it is not. Would you rather inflict your stupid disclaimer on your correspondent just because you can't be arsed not to include it? That's incredibly lazy and rude.

  9. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    A law is the way to go

    I recommend an RFC proposing a new SMTP response:

    rejected: excessive legal boiler plate

    Recognising legal junk should be easy for a spam filter.

  10. jake Silver badge

    What kind of numpty prints out email, ever?

    Serious question ... It's ELECTRONIC MAIL, not paper mail.

    That said, miscellaneous "footer" legal crap is just that ... crap.

    1. Phil W

      Re: What kind of numpty prints out email, ever?

      In principle you're right but there are occasions when it is functionally or legally necessary to have hard copy of correspondence.

      1. ruscook

        Re: What kind of numpty prints out email, ever?

        Don't know about the UK but not here in Aus. Our electronic records systems and email archiving software (the same ones you buy over there) are certified for use by the gov't.

        Just seems a copout by computer illiterate old farts.

    2. janimal

      Re: What kind of numpty prints out email, ever?

      The government needs to, for accountability and history.

      1. davcefai

        Re: What kind of numpty prints out email, ever?

        I used to work with 2 people who ALWAYS printed out their email to read. So typically:

        "What do you think of XYZ's proposal" (sent yesterday)

        "Oh, I haven't printed my emails yet"

        "Well when you do you'll find you missed the deadline."

        So they would print the emails, read them and then use the back of the paper as rough paper or to print the next crop of mails. (eco friendly, see?)

      2. jake Silver badge

        @ Phil W & janimal (was: Re: What kind of numpty prints out email, ever?)

        So I guess the .gov has no idea how to create an electronic "paper trail"? That would explain lots of boo-boos.

      3. ruscook

        Re: What kind of numpty prints out email, ever?

        No it doesn't. 4 words - Electronic Records Management system

    3. WylieCoyoteUK

      Re: What kind of numpty prints out email, ever?

      Simple solution, just tell your printer to print page 1.

      I only print email out when it is money off food or drink at >insert name of pleasant hostelry here<

      And then the voucher is conveniently designed to print the bottom few lines (or half the bar code) on page2 ! DoH!

      Happily a lot of them allow you to show the barcode on your phone now :)

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is this what this clown

    was voted in to do??

    Seriously?

    People starving and dying whilst waiting for hospital care and the single most pressing issue in this cretins life is a dislike for a disclaimer at the bottom of his email.

    Utterly utterly disconnected from the "real" world

    1. janimal

      Re: Is this what this clown

      Perhaps greater efficiency would leave more money for hospital care? Is that unreasonable?

      Also the government is probably charged 50% more than the rest of us for paper & ink.

  12. Greg 16

    How much are they paying for ink?

    I strongly suspect that the UK public sector pays more for it's ink that anywhere else on this planet, so maybe that should be looked at first?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How much are they paying for ink?

      Worse than that. Place I worked for were paying nearly £80 per cartridge for some XX colour laser printers. Decided to use non-genuine supplies to cut costs but didn't test them first. All the printers clogged up. Cost a fortune in engineers & voided the XX support contract. They continued to use the sub-standard cartridges (to avoid writing them off) and engaged ad-hoc engineers (different budget) to keep them running which didn't work for long. All those printers had to be replaced.

      The justification..

      Supplies budget: win (XX supplies cost nearly halved).

      Purchase budget: win (non XX printers purchased thus "escaping difficult XX relationship")

      Recycling: win (unused sub-standard cartridges)

      That's what you get when some dick-head mentions to a clueless manager how they've been using non-genuine ink-jet supplies for ages without trouble.

  13. ruscook

    errr we're in the 21st century, why is he even printing out emails. They can be viewed on tablets, phone, web and desktop. They can be stored in electronic records management systems.

    Learn to use the tools of the trade in an office / gov't department or get out for being incompetent at basic tasks.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ink?

    To those probing about ink.

    If Central Govt. is anything like the Govt. Agency I work in (hence Anonymous) it's actually laser printed from an MFD and B/W costs .001p/sheet.

    I suspect his comment about 'waste of ink' is just one of his technical failings!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wonder what would happen if I legally changed my name to :

    Kind regards,

    M0rt Wuthers This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they are addressed If you have received this email in error please notify the system manager This message contains confidential information and is intended only for the individual named If you are not the named addressee you should not disseminate, distribute or copy this e-mail Please notify the sender immediately by e-mail if you have received this e-mail by mistake and delete this e-mail from your system If you are not the intended recipient you are notified that disclosing, copying, distributing or taking any action in reliance on the contents of this information is strictly prohibited .....The third OBE

    1. Robert Grant

      Re: Wonder what would happen if I legally changed my name to :

      Then I'd be asking you, as I do so many others, what the heck are you doing adding a nonsensical "kind" to "regards".

      Regards

      Rob

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wonder what would happen if I legally changed my name to :

        > what the heck are you doing adding a nonsensical "kind" to "regards".

        I would be curious to know why you think that "kind" is "nonsensical" in that context. Thanks.

        1. Robert Grant
          Happy

          Re: Wonder what would happen if I legally changed my name to :

          Shouldn't that be "kind thanks"?

  16. Winkypop Silver badge
    Facepalm

    First world problems

    So we have created peace in the Middle East, cured cancer, found a way to properly feed the poor, created cheap fusion power and can turn sea water fresh for pennies a gallon.

    Next:

    Printer ink supplies!

  17. David Roberts Silver badge
    WTF?

    Illegal?

    Did I miss something, or is the proposal to make it illegal to add these footers?

    If so, how do the authorities propose to enforce this?

    Seems like a mandate to read all emails to check for illegal content.

    If this was the USA it would also be a mandate to persue anyone in the world who emailed a US recipient - even though you cannot tell this reliably from the email address.

    Saving paper is just fluff and misdirection.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Illegal?

      > Did I miss something, or is the proposal to make it illegal to add these footers?

      I haven't really bothered to check as this doesn't concern me in any way, but the way I understood the article is that the chap was just proposing to get rid of the blurb on Parliament's own emails.

      Not that I would particularly mind if we made this a capital offence, to be honest.

  18. Tom yng Nghymru

    Even worse when you have to have the pointless legalese gibberish in Welsh as well as English!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > Even worse when you have to have the pointless legalese gibberish in Welsh as well as English!

      Or in English as well as Welsh.

  19. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

    While I agree that the legal boilerplate can get annoying at times:

    "Enough is enough, Mr Speaker. Never again do we want email chains that say in one line 'Fancy lunch, mate?' and then immediately the one line is followed by 20 undeletable lines of legal officiousness."

    Why, in $DEITY's name, are you printing an email which says "Fancy lunch, mate?"?!?! That in itself is a complete waste of paper.

    I honestly cannot remember the last time I printed an email. When I have, it has been a long, complicated one containing discussions of specs for a project, which I need to digest and annotate, but it is incredibly rare. It sounds like he is using his email as more of a fax machine, printing everything off and only reading it on paper.

    This is a user issue (PEBKAC). He needs to be taught not to print emails.

    "It is high time, therefore, that we put a stop to these meaningless politicians that clog up our political system, deplete our printer cartridges of precious ink and cut down forests’ worth of paper. The footer and the header can survive, but let us now condemn the needless idiots to the dustbin of internet history. I commend the bill to the House.”

    FTFY

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I often have the same issue as Mr Duncan..

    ..when I print out the email from my colleague asking if I fancy lunch.

  21. Mark Allen
    Facepalm

    Also kill the annoying "Green" messages!

    It is not just that pointless paragraph of legal text, it is the far more annoyingly patronising "P Before printing, please think about the environment" line which has been carefully added in GREEN to also use a little bit of your green ink up every time the document is printed!

    One of my clients uses a sig with a 350x200pixel company jpg, legal blurb, registered address, facebook, twitter and linked-in buttons, website links, green message, company motto AND the annoying (out of date) award logos (which are also links). That mess takes up about 25% of an A4 page. Obviously he also includes it on all replies too!!

    The most bizarre thing is this guy only ever sends single line emails...

    1. tin 2

      Re: Also kill the annoying "Green" messages!

      I especially like when "P Before printing, please think about the environment" comes out on the top of a whole separate piece of paper...

    2. Nugry Horace

      Re: Also kill the annoying "Green" messages!

      It's also particularly good when the 'Green' exhortation is what causes the email to spill over onto a second page.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Also kill the annoying "Green" messages!

      > One of my clients uses a sig with a 350x200pixel company jpg, [etc., etc.]

      Try Air France's self check in, where your boarding pass (the one you're supposed to print using your own ink) comes with a quarter page advertisement consisting mostly of a solid black background.

      Yes, I did write to them.

  22. Tweets

    20 years ago, an email signature was frowned upon, if it was more than 4 lines long! It's because so many people were still paying for access per BYTE of data! :)

    I really wish those rules of thumb had stuck, but of course as bandwidth increased, emails started to incorporate HTML/CSS... and of course, all email servers now send the email in two parts, so that there is still a plain text version.

    And someone saw that you could make emails pretty... so why can't you make footers pretty?

    And that was the end, my friends, of a more simple time.

    1. Down not across Silver badge

      netiquette

      20 years ago, an email signature was frowned upon, if it was more than 4 lines long! It's because so many people were still paying for access per BYTE of data! :)

      I really wish those rules of thumb had stuck, but of course as bandwidth increased, emails started to incorporate HTML/CSS... and of course, all email servers now send the email in two parts, so that there is still a plain text version.

      +1

      I'm still stubbornly using 4 line sig. You can fit sufficient contact information in 4 lines (of no more than 80 characters each of course)

      If he wants to ban something, please ban the stupid reply on top that Outlook taught people to use which makes following a thread painful. And for anyone complaining "but it is too long and I need to scroll so far down to see the message" ...there is your clue to trim some off... the whole thread doesn't need to be repeated in every message.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: netiquette

        My sig's 6 lines (address, two telephone numbers). It doesn't really matter: good mail clients will strip it in replies.

        I personally find the lack of text/plain, top-replying and the lack of quoting far more annoying that even the most ridiculous signature. But I guess that puts me in the small minority of people who've been using e-mail for more than 15 years.

      2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: netiquette

        > If he wants to ban something, please ban the stupid reply on top that Outlook taught people to use which makes following a thread painful.

        Not only that, but because such id^H^Hpeople never actually scroll down past what they're writing, they don't realise that the automated "add piles of sh*t that no-one ever reads" function is adding an extra copy on each reply. So it's not just the whole thread, it's

        >>> many

        >> many

        > many

        many copies of the automatically added crap. Page after page after page of it.

        And because top-posting is so rubbish, people resort to "replies in red" type tricks to highlight where they are actually replying in-line on a point by point basis. And then there's the clients (yes, Microsh*t Oddlook) that don't even do quoting properly - so when you reply/forward you find that your original text, which came back as untrimmed text, now appears to be from the person who replied to you. Maybe some century Microsh*t will figure out how to make email work - but I'm not holding my breath.

        I'm the "plain text and time rolls forward" holdout in our office - allows the hell out of some retards though most have just learned to accept it as if they complain they'll get a long lecture that leaves them wishing they'd not mentioned it.

        1. 's water music Silver badge

          Re: netiquette

          I'm the "plain text and time rolls forward" holdout in our office - allows [annoys? ed.] the hell out of some retards though most have just learned to accept it as if they complain they'll get a long lecture that leaves them wishing they'd not mentioned it.

          Upvoted for passive aggressive enforcement of old-git values

      3. VinceH Silver badge

        Re: netiquette

        "I'm still stubbornly using 4 line sig. You can fit sufficient contact information in 4 lines (of no more than 80 characters each of course)"

        I have a variety of sigs, depending which hat I'm wearing - but most of them are one or two lines. I think the largest is three *short* lines. (And, of course, they are all plain text!)

        If he wants to ban something, please ban the stupid reply on top that Outlook taught people to use which makes following a thread painful.

        That, too.

        I had a colleague ask me a week or so back where my reply was - because he couldn't see it at the top of the message. I pointed out it was underneath his (very short) original, and he then asked me why I didn't reply properly, at the top, like other people. :/

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: netiquette

        > I'm still stubbornly using 4 line sig. You can fit sufficient contact information in 4 lines

        People don't contact me. I contact them.

        [ Hence I don't need a signature at all. :) ]

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Unfortunately my employer has a standard signature template which we are all supposed to use. Around 15 lines long, has text formatting and (depending on the person) possibly a few images and as somebody mentioned earlier is in English and Welsh.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe they should use whatsapp

    for those one liners. Or stop printing them out...

    wait a sec... why were they printing one liner e-mails out anyway?

    politicians... pfffft, worst than my grandmother at computers. Yet loves to legislate on issues surrounding them.

  24. Old Tom

    Please consider the environment before printing

    I do wonder how many gigabytes of "Please consider the environment before printing this email" flash around the world every day; how many petabytes of it are replicated on power consuming servers all over the place; how many extra sheets of paper pop out of printers simply containing that message.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      Re: Please consider the environment before printing

      True, but that only wastes electricity and time.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Please consider the environment before printing

      Not only is that sort of waffleyness taking up disk space, but what about the ever-growing slug-trails of Lookout-esque quotes 'en retard'? Whilst there is an environmental cost to printing, what about the environmental effects of having to manufacture ever-larger hard disks to store all the requoted messages, and the electricity needed to transmit unnecessarily longer messages..?

      (OK, I guess that cat videos, etc, rather drop all that into the level of background noise nowadays..!)

  25. Christopher O'Neill

    Thunderbird

    Is this a good time to point out the annoying fact that Thunderbird is not able to print-out selected parts of a document? (the option is greyed out in the print dialog).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Thunderbird

      > Is this a good time to point out the annoying fact that Thunderbird is not able to print-out selected parts of a document?

      If I select some text on an email, and then hit "Print" (or "Print Preview"), only the selected text is printed / previewed.

      (Thunderbird 31.0, x86_64 GNU/Linux)

  26. Adolph Clickbait

    Simples

    Secretary prints, transcribes by hand, scans then emails back to MP, oh

  27. skeptical i
    Facepalm

    Instead of just hitting 'print' people should use the "print preview" function

    to determine how many pages are actually needed (and if the number of pages could be reduced by reducing the pages to 90% so that last two lines of message do not need their own page). However, that'll likely get as far as asking a colleague plz not to send out simple emails* just as .docx attachments but to also copy-paste the info into the body of the email so that ALL recipients** can read it, and then seeing the next email from her containing -- wait for it! -- a .docx attachment and nothing in the email body. Dunno if it's a comprehension issue or an innovative passive-aggressive way to tell me to pound sand. And the beat goes on ....

    * Simple in this case refers to meeting agendas, possible discussion items, and other prose that does not require prettification or formatting more complicated than tabs and doublespacing.

    ** This is a community volunteer group and not an office, so there is a variety of operating systems, devices (from cellphones to desktops), connexion speeds, software/app availability among participants.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Instead of just hitting 'print' people should use the "print preview" function

      > Simple in this case refers to meeting agendas, possible discussion items, and other prose that does not require prettification or formatting more complicated than tabs and doublespacing.

      Is this people not old enough to have known how to use a typewriter? Or the sort of people who couldn't even use a typewriter, back in the day?

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not take an intellectual leap and simplify, like Stiff records?

    Around the periphery of the label on 45RPM vinyl records at least in the late 70`s used to be some variant of "All rights of this recording/artist/etc reserved. Unauthorised reproduction/broadcast/ copying prohibited."

    I had an Ian Dury single and remember on first play noticing it said "Don`t Fuck about ...OR ELSE!" in its place.

  29. JustWondering
    WTF?

    Um ...

    Print emails?

  30. patrick_bateman

    So everyone reading this post is like, yeh, douch, learn how to use a PC, get with the times.

    they are right.

    Writer needs to know his audience.

    and... the legal bit is only required on external emails, so the last hop as it leaves work, put on by exchange.

    Exclaimer. nobs work there, unless you pay big money bugs are ignore but the products are good.

  31. DLKirkwood
    Facepalm

    Know how to use your printer, or….

    My printer had the option to not print certain areas of an online page, many computers have the option to hightlight and print only what is hightlighted. But when all else fails by not just highlight, copy and paste what you want onto a blank page of WORD, or whatever, and print THAT without the extra bits on it? It's not really rocket science these days.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019