Legal claims can now be served via Facebook, rules High Court
27 February 2012
Social networking sites may now be used to serve claims where there are difficulties in locating one of the parties.
In a commercial case involving claims against a broker for overcharging commission, the claimants were not sure of the broker’s last known address. They served a claim at this address but also sought permission from Teare J to serve via the broker’s Facebook address, after providing evidence of the account being updated. The judge extended the time for the defendant to respond to the claim because of uncertainty as to how frequently he checks his Facebook account.
The Telegraph reports that Facebook “is routinely used to serve claims in Australia and New Zealand, and has been used a handful of times in Britain.”
In 2009 Lewison J allowed an injunction to be served via Twitter in a case where the defendant was only known by his Twitter-handle and could not easily be identified another way. But this is the first time that a claim (as distinct from an order) has been permitted at such a high level to be served in this way.
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I agree with Andreas. Social networking sites are too ephemeral to be used reliably in this way.
It should also be remembered that Facebook sometimes arbitrarily closes a user’s account, like in this (my own) example: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2010/09/11/life-after-facebook/ – Many unread e-mails may have been in that inbox which will be eternally lost to me.
Usually, when you have a huge problem finding somebody for the purposes of service of process, then you have no chance of enforcing the judgement later. So I wonder: what’s the point?
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