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When one is required to inform a company of something, and some email is sent to a mailbox that is not monitored, has the company been informed?

For example, say someone had a car insurance policy that stated "You must tell us straight away if ... The car is involved in an accident". All communication had been via email, and 3 email addresses had sent emails (say [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected]).

The policy holder emails all three email addresses informing them that an accident has occurred and no further action is required (the car has low value). An automatic reply is received from one of the email addresses informing the policy holder that the mailbox is not monitored. Has the company been informed as far as the law is concerned?

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The commonwealth and all states and territories have enacted uniform legislation regarding Electronic Transactions. The relevant section here is 14A.

If the email address is one that has been "designated by the addressee" then it has been received "when the electronic communication becomes capable of being retrieved".

If it is not a designated address then, in addition to the above, the recipient must "become aware that the electronic communication has been sent to that address."

Both of which are subject to other agreements that the parties may have made such as, for example, certain correspondence being by mail or by hand.

So, for your example, you would need to check the policy to see if there is a specified manner by which notifications have to be made. If so, that's how you have to do it.

If not, is there a designated email address for such communications? The courts have held that addresses that are advertised (e.g. on a website or letterhead) or actually used for communications between the parties are prima facie designated. So sending it to addresses that have sent stuff to you is pretty safe unless it is clear that they are not designated. For example, if you receive a reply saying the address is not monitored or if the email is something like [email protected].

As a real-life example, I had to decide in an adjudication whether certain documents had been received by the Respondent. The facts were the Claimant had emailed them to an address the Respondent had routinely used for communication but because one of the attachments was a Word document, the Respondent's virus protection had deleted it 1.6 seconds after it arrived without notifying either the Claimant or the Respondent. So, what do you think?

Yes, it had been received. Not only was it "capable of being retrieved" it had been retrieved, albeit by the Respondent's automated virus protection rather than a person. In essence, it was no different than if it had been a snail mail letter that had been placed in the letter box and thrown out with the real estate flyers.

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    It seems like a very bad idea to automatically throw away any emails with Word attachments. Informing the recipient seems quite pointless, but not informing the sender doubles on the stupidity.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 4, 2022 at 13:03
  • @gnasher729 that’s what I thought
    – Dale M
    Jul 4, 2022 at 22:56

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