Using WhatsApp And Other Messaging Systems To Serve Legal Notices

For the past year, lawyer Adrian Wee used emails to notify individuals that they have been sued. He is also using WhatsApp as one of the electronic avenues with which to serve legal documents to hard-to-reach persons once the circumstances call for it.

State courts have approved the serving of court papers to persons through WhatsApp, the popular messaging system. Lawyer Wee said that the electronic legal notice is often used for debt recovery and harassment cases. In the past, if the legal notice is served to a guy who is not at home, the process server has to return. It becomes too easy for an individual to avoid the process servers by not opening the door.

Avoidance to be served the legal notice can delay proceedings but in today’s digital age, evasive tactics no longer work. Last May, the High Court ruled that a game developer from Australia that has been accused of copyright theft could be notified of civil action electronically through Facebook, emails, Skype or internet message board.

However, there are certain conditions before electronic legal notices can be sent. A physical copy of the legal notice can be posted on the door of the individual’s last known address. The legal notice can also be send through registered mail.

Last October 20, The Straits Times has reported that State Courts have allowed court notices to be served using WhatsApp after attempts to reach the defendant at his house has become futile. One example is R&D Pharmaceuticals that filed a case in court against a business associate to recover S$43,000 loan. Since the defendant Tan Chong Min cannot be reached, R&D’s lawyer matched a copy of his identification card to the photograph in the WhatsApp display to prove the messaging system can be a legal platform to reach Mr. Tan.

In spite of several court rulings allowing electronic means in serving legal notices, many lawyers still prefer a Legal Document to be served by process servers. The courts are also assured of the timely completion of the task according to their specific instructions. All relevant laws are adhered to by process servers.

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