Writing emails on behalf: what to look out for?

If you have to write an e-mail on business, you should follow different guidelines than if you write a private greeting. This is especially true when secretaries or assistants write an email on assignment. Because misunderstandings in communication should be avoided at all costs in this case.

Employees who write emails on behalf of and take care of business correspondence for their supervisor may ask themselves the following questions, among others:

  • What do I have to consider when writing a business e-mail??
  • Should I use "on behalf of" or even the abbreviation "i.A." sign?
  • I am threatened with legal consequences if I write e-mails on behalf of a client?

"By order": Abbreviations without legally binding effect

The correct use of signature abbreviations in offices is generally of great importance. This is because they document that the sender is acting on behalf of someone else. Some of these abbreviations have a legally binding effect.

An incorrect abbreviation by proxy of the superior can therefore have far-reaching legal consequences: The recipient of a letter may assume that the sender is aware of the meaning of the corresponding signature abbreviations and that a corresponding power of attorney exists.

If, for example, without the appropriate power of attorney and thus without authorization, you automatically add the abbreviation i.V. (abbreviation for "with power of attorney") can get into serious trouble. Therefore, employees who write e-mails on behalf of the company should carefully ensure that the mail in the mailbox contains a correct signature.

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Signatures: How to proceed?

When it comes to questions of liability in the case of a failed business transaction, the question quickly arises as to who can be held responsible for the damages. In the event of incorrect or erroneous abbreviations, the company is often liable.

Time and again, therefore, office employees are faced with the question of how to handle the signature at the end of a letter when they write e-mails on behalf of someone else, the letter or e-mail on behalf of i.A., Has been written and the signer is someone other than the supervisor. Last but not least, the correct use of the respective abbreviation is also a matter of politeness towards the recipient. In general, this topic is a broad field in which quite a few legal pitfalls lurk.

The daily work routine in many offices regularly requires employees to send e-mails on behalf of the boss. The recipient may be on a business trip or otherwise unavailable at the time. Whoever signs with the addition i.A. signs, should know that in this case no legally binding effect is achieved.

This abbreviation explicitly signals that the signer cannot be held responsible for the content of the letter. It is clear to the recipient of the letter that the text has been written with the knowledge of the superior, but is for information purposes only.

Signature regulation: an advantage

The necessity of legally binding correspondence, on the other hand, is of immense importance in everyday professional life – especially in connection with contractual agreements that have been made or are to be made and can no longer be delayed.

An example: The supervisor is ill and asks his secretary to cancel the business trip and his associated hotel stay as quickly as possible. Because a contract between the parties has come into being with the booking of the accommodation, the hotel does not have to accept the cancellation in purely legal terms if it is signed with "on behalf of" and there is no authority to act.

The same applies the other way around, for example, if an office worker accidentally orders too many office supplies. Without an "i.A." in case of doubt there is no claim for return of the surplus goods.

Writing e-mails on behalf of others: Power of attorney for employees

Time reasons, absence, company size: supervisors in companies are often unable to reliably sign all of the company’s correspondence. A signature regulation, with which the secretary or assistant is granted certain powers, is therefore advantageous. This means that the contents of the correspondence are legally binding even if the office staff sign the documents on behalf of the supervisor.

A power of attorney ensures this: With it, employees become so-called proxies in the external relationship. In this case, the employees by proxy may conduct corresponding transactions of a legally binding nature with other persons as authorized representatives, depending on the agreement made. As signature abbreviations are then pp. or ppa. (for the term by proxy, for business letters) or i.V. (for all other authorized persons).

A power of attorney (according to BGB) should include the following elements:

  • The name "power of attorney
  • Naming of the person giving the power of attorney
  • about the authorized person (first and last name, address)
  • The period of validity
  • Signature of the principal

Persons who receive a power of attorney become so-called Authorized representative. Different forms are distinguished.

A general power of attorney, for example, applies to all business conducted in a company. The general authorized representative signs with the addition i.V. (by proxy and not, as is often assumed, by representation). They may permanently conduct all legal transactions that are pending in the company.

In order to write an e-mail by proxy, certain contents and specifications are required. © Who is Danny – Shutterstock

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