Emails as Binding Contracts? How Does That Work?

You read that right. Sometimes emails are not just emails. Sometimes they act as a legally binding signature for a contract. It might not sound believable, but in certain circumstances, this is exactly what can happen.

Think of a time where you were negotiating the terms of a deal. Perhaps there was an email sent to discuss an offer you would have your attorney draft a formal agreement to enact. But then something happens you didn’t expect – the person you emailed responds saying they accept the deal as mentioned in your email and want to hold you to those terms. Can they hold you to what you said in the email?

Emails Can Satisfy the Legal Requirements for a Business Contract to be Binding

It may surprise you, but it’s true. Emails – even without a signature can, under certain circumstances, can be considered modifications to existing contracts. What’s more, and this is far more common, courts are ruling that email agreements can be considered legally binding documents. This is something that affects both you and your employees.

What makes this issue even more complicated is that there is grey area where it’s simply not clear unless you are an expert in legal documents, which most employees and employers are obviously not.

The UETA and the ESIGN allow emails to be considered binding

The Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) and the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) allow courts to consider emails contracts under certain circumstances. In some cases, courts have ruled that adding a name or a from line is the legal equivalent of signing a binding contract.

How to Protect Your Business

The best thing you can do is set clear guidelines and boundaries on email usage for you and all of your employees. Furthermore, adding a note to any emails that discusses a negotiation or modification to an existing contract should explicitly contain text making it clear that any offer or acceptance thereof is subject to the review of legal counsel as well as must be put into a more formal, written agreement.

Depending on your business and contracts, you may need to take even more steps to protect you and your business. The best thing you can do is to reach out to a qualified business attorney who can help you assess your specific needs and relationships in order to determine the best way to protect you, your business, and your employees.

In Conclusion

Running a business is complicated. You have enough to worry about working on building and delivering a great service and product. When it comes to legal protection and advice, reach out to a qualified business attorney in your area to give your business its best chance at success. If you have any additional questions about emails and business contracts or wish to discuss other related legal issues, call Stephen Rizzieri at 214.434.1017 or fill out the form on our site today.