Registered Email™ services are commonly used within financial services, insurance, legal, human resources, contract management, credit and collections, receivables management, payslip delivery, real estate, and property management industries and functional areas, among other uses.
Watch full video of Karen Fitzgerald discuss RMail at Optimize!2020.
Director, MacKay Corporate Brokers
RMail Registered E-mail™ Services and Evidence within the United Kingdom Legal System. Excerpt from legal analysis by Alan Shipman, Editor, British Standards Institution, BS 10008:2014 Evidential Weight and Legal Admissibility. (Full analysis is available from RPost).
RPost® service delivers a Registered E-mail™ message to the recipient and returns verifiable evidence of the precise content (message body and all attachments) and official time the e- mail was sent and received by each recipient. The service accomplishes this without storing e-mail messages and without any extra recipient action or special settings or software on the recipient side.
This review of the admissibility and evidential weight of RPost’s Registered E-mail™ service in the United Kingdom presents the following conclusions:
THE UK LEGAL ADMISSIBILITY POSITION
Within the UK, the majority of instances where the contents of an e-mail will be used as evidence are those dealing with civil litigation. The appropriate legal system for civil litigation is defined by the Civil Evidence Act 1995. The appropriate sections (8 and 9) of the Act related to the admissibility of documentary evidence are as follows:
Once legal admissibility is determined (e.g. can statements within an e-mail be admitted into court as evidence), the evidential weight of the information contained within the document must then be scrutinized. Such scrutiny will relate to the authenticity, integrity and availability of information processed in an electronic format. It is thus critical that the court be satisfied that such electronic information is both reliable and accurate.
The ability to be able to prove the integrity of content of an e-mail (including any attachments) and its time of delivery are becoming increasingly important. There are common misconceptions around standard e-mail systems which can easily be exploited by one party or another to deny or dispute the integrity of an e-mail. Some common misconceptions follow:
Within the UK, the British Standards Institution (BSI) ‘Legal Admissibility’ British Standard (BS 10008:2014) is where one turns for assistance in demonstrating the authenticity of information in an electronic form. For e-mail applications, additional guidance is available in the BSI Code of Practice BIP 0008-2:2014, Annex A.
BRITISH STANDARD COMPLIANCE PROVISION
BS 10008:2014 and the aligned Code of Practice (BIP 0008-2:2014, Annex A) discusses the advantages of e-mail systems that include a proof-of-delivery option. The Code of Practice notes that “whilst the receipt of such a confirmation message may be trustworthy, the absence of such a receipt may not be reliable evidence as to either delivery or non-delivery”.
It is important to note that the RPost “proof of delivery” capability speaks directly to this provision. Every Registered E-mail message generates an automatically returned Registered Receipt™ e-mail that contains the contents of the original e-mail and any attachments, held in an encrypted form incorporated into the receipt (note, RPost does not store a copy of the e- mail or receipt, or encrypted data associated with the e-mail or receipt). The encryption key can only be deciphered by RPost, thus securing the contents of the receipt. The receipt also confirms the delivery status and official time stamp of both sending and receiving of the original e-mail message. The Registered Receipt™ e-mail is a digital snapshot of the server-to- server conversation that surrounds the sending and receiving (or possible non-receipt) of the e-mail and itself can be used to regenerate an authenticated original e-mail (and all attachments) should a subsequent challenge arise. The delivery status will reflect a minimum of “delivery to mail-server” (or “delivery failure”) but could show “delivery to mailbox” and “opened” wherever possible. It should be noted that an absence of a receipt, or an absence of a “date and time of opening” entry does not prove that the e-mail was never received / opened.
To further enhance the potential evidential weight of an e-mail, the RPost system provides a mechanism for demonstrating the authenticity of a stored e-mail. This authentication can take place any time after the Registered Receipt e-mail has been received by the sender – the original message can be re-authenticated at any time. Thus, even where the content of a stored e-mail has been changed (either inadvertently or maliciously), the e-mail can be independently authenticated by forwarding the Registered Receipt e-mail to RPost where it is unlocked and used for verification purposes. Where doubt occurs with an authenticated e- mail, a re-authentication could be performed ‘in front of the court’ if necessary to provide the strongest test possible of the validity of the evidence contained within the e-mail under question.
United Kingdom Electronic Communications Act of 2000, Part II “Facilitation of Electronic Commerce, Data Storage, Etc.” defines what would be considered an electronic signature that would have standing in a legal proceeding; the Civil Evidence Act 1995, the British Standards Institute ‘Legal admissibility’ Code of Practice – BIP 000, and European Union laws on the enforceability of electronic transactions is governed by the Electronic Signatures Directive adopted in 1999 and the Electronic Commerce Directive adopted in 2000; and in 2016, European Union Regulation No 910/2014 (eIDAS).