LEGAL ASPECTS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION
In all sorts of business communication every possible care should be taken. Even a single carelessly chosen word may lead of a lawsuit. When we communicate with integrity and honest consideration for our reader, and with a golden rule we are legally safe. Golden rules refer to do to the others as you wish to be done by. You should remember that ignorance of the law is no excuse. You should be aware of changing laws from time to time, which are warranted, by changing social and business conditions. From the legal viewpoint it is not surprising that even a true statement may lead to legal action while some untrue statements are harmless.
In the following areas a communicator should be very careful to avoid any legal risk:
2. Invasion of privacy
4. Credit, collection, and employment
5. Other areas of caution
It refers to the unconsented and unprivileged presentation of a false idea, which tends to injure reputation.
Defamation is the aftermath of the following
It is oral defamation. It is injurious defamation by spoken words or by looks. Signs, or gestures.
It is written defamation. It is malicious defamatory publication or statement.
A person can be used for defamation if he deliberately publishes the false idea that injures reputation.
Publication is the unconsented intentional or negligent communication of defamatory matter to a third party. Publication includes any means of communication by which a third party actually receives the defamatory message. If you accuse a person privately of a fraud or incompetence you have no legal consequences. But if this accusation is made in front of a third person who is not privileged you may be subject to legal action.
Libelous and slanderous statements both are subject to legal action. Since libelous statements are more permanent, laws about libel are more severe than those about slander, Libelous communication includes a letter, circular, picture, and photograph recorded tape, cartoon, and newspaper or phonograph record. Accidental communications to third person, such as eavesdroppers or unauthorized letter readers, are not actionable.
A legal right to communicate defamatory material or information in certain situations is privilege. The privilege may be divided into two kinds, (i) absolute, and (ii) conditional.
It is that peculiar right which arises out of one’s rank, position, or nature. It is limited to three areas:
(i) Judicial proceedings
(ii) Legislative proceedings
(iii) The act of important government officials. Letters between parties or attorneys relating to a controversy are privileged.
Communication in good faith is not subject to legal action. Defamatory statements made in ordinary business activity are qualifiedly privileged, whether they are communicated interdepartmentally or outside the organization. But intentional deceit must be avoided or the person responsible for it may be sued for damages. In written messages like letters and reports negative words should be chosen very carefully as it may lead to legal action.
The following words should be avoided or used with a great care when referring to a person or an organization. Although there is a very long list of such words, the following list is enough to make your mind clear of using words connoting such meanings.
These terms have been judged libelous.
.A saint abroad and Indian giver
A devil at home Insolvent
Beguiler Lame duck
Bunko steerer Machiave
Carpet beggar Machiavelist
Con Mortgage shark
INVASION OF PRIVACY
It refers to unconsented, unprivileged, and unreasonable intrusion into the private life of an individual. Privacy can be violated without any publication to a third person, and even though the findings are tree or not particularly harmful to reputation. Invasion of privacy is trespass which is any injury to another’s person or property. The right of privacy ensures the solitude of landowners.
Invasion of property has two aspects:
a. Use of a person’s identity
b. Physical surveillance of records, reports, and letters
Use of a person’s identity
It includes a use of a person’s name, photograph, or other identity without permission. Such invasions include publication of X-rays and other medical pictures and undue publicity of a delinquent debt. Unreasonable publicity of private life may also result in legal actions. You may use the picture or identity of an individual for advertising or sales letters only after prior consent. And the use must not be defamatory.
Physical surveillance of records, reports, and letters
Invasion of privacy includes unauthorized examination of records, reports, and letters,
It refers to intentional miss-presentation by one party to a contract of a material fact which is relied upon by the other party to his injury.
ELEMENTS OF FRAUD
The following are the elements of fraud:
(i) False representation of fact, not opinion, intentionally made.
(ii) Intent that the deceived person act thereon.
(iii)Knowledge that such statements would naturally deceive.
(iv) The deceived person acted to his injury.
Misrepresentation whether direct or indirect falsehood leads to fraud. Misrepresentation of a material fact constitutes actionable fraud. Failing to reveal defects, confirming false impressions by keeping silent or concealing defects constitute actionable fraud.
Warranties are the guarantees. The seller undertakes certain obligations about the nature, title, and quality of the goods being sold. Warranties may be express or implied.
Fake warranties are frauds and include:
Fake business opportunities
Fake business correspondence school programs
Fake charity institutions
Automobile insurance frauds
Fake public contests
To make recovery from doubtful and bad debtors you should not show anger, preaching, or using insulting and cutting remarks. Such remarks may lead to a libel suit.
In making a recommendation of a former employee you should be true, honest, tactful and aware of your responsibility to
(i) The applicant.
(ii) The addressee, and
When you honestly cannot recommend, the following precautions should be taken.
(i) Non recommendation should be oral and without the presence of a third party.
(ii) Write a brief refusal tactfully, diplomatically, and carefully.
(iii) Omit the applicant’s name in the letter.
OTHER AREAS OF CAUTION
(i) The sending of unordered goods by V.P.P is violation of postal law.
(ii) You should not copy prohibited documents.
(iii) You cannot copy copyrighted material without prior permission.
(iv) Consult your attorney in doubtful and fussy cases.
(v) Be honest and fair in business dealings.
(vi) You should be aware of your legal responsibility.
Exercises & Examination Questions
Q.1 Define communication, what is its importance?
Q.2 How will you plan communication?
Q.3 What organizational plant would you select for your business letters and why? How do opening and closing affect a business letter?
Q.4 What are the problems and barriers of communication? What general principles would you suggest to ward off these problems?
Q.5 Explain in detail the following terms with reference to their legal implications
b. Invasion of privacy
Q.6 What legal precaution you would ensure in connection with collection of your dues and non-recommendation letters?
Q.7 Elaborate nine C’s of communication
Q.8 What are the words and phrases, which are outdated, and you should avoid?
Q.9 What are the seven principles by the help of which you can develop your writing skill?