Dispatching the dispatch rule? The postal rule, e-mail, revocation and implied terms.

Elizabeth Macdonald


It is a matter of controversy, whether the postal rule should be applied to e-mail and similarly modern methods of communication. This article looks at the underlying bases of the rule and recognises that it has always been a matter of the weighing of benefits and drawbacks. A balance favouring a dispatch rule is very unlikely to exist with such newer methods of communication, and may well no longer even justify the postal rule in relation to the post itself. However, it is argued that the advantages of the rule should not simply be abandoned. It is contended that we should break away from the simple dichotomy of a dispatch or receipt rule, to seek a means of maintaining its positive impact, whilst avoiding the harmful side effects. It is further contended that could be achieved by use of the device of terms / contracts implied in law, which would also reveal the true nature of the rule, as concerned with the regulation of pre-contractual behaviour.


postal rule; e-mail; revocation; implied terms.

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