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05th July 2012

Facebook: A new method of serving legal proceedings?

Earlier this year the English High Court gave permission for a commercial claim to be served on an individual through his Facebook account, in what is believed to be a first in the UK for a commercial case.

The English Courts are accordingly following the lead of Courts in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, which have already sanctioned the service of claims via Facebook.

Background

Investment house AKO Capital (“AKO”) sought to recover £1.3 million from stockbrokers TFS Derivatives (“TFS”) on account of overpayments of commissions it had made to TFS.

TFS denied liability and argued alternatively that the funds claimed ought to have been recovered from its former cash equities broker Fabio de Biase and from AKO’s hedge fund trader Anjam Ahmad.

In September 2010, Mr de Biase received a prohibition order and financial penalty from the UK’s Financial Services Authority for his involvement in an arrangement with Mr Ahmad, whereby commissions paid by TFS to AKO were “improved”. Mr de Biase consequently received a higher commission income, which he then split with Mr Ahmad.

AKO had experienced difficulties in tracing Mr de Biase in order to join him as a defendant to the claim as he was no longer residing at his last known address. However, they had located his Facebook profile. AKO were able to demonstrate to the Court that not only did the Facebook profile located belong to Mr De Biase, but also that he regularly accessed his profile, as demonstrated by the fact that recent friend requests sent to Mr De Biase were being accepted by him.

Conclusion

It would appear that Courts in various jurisdictions recognise the increasing power of social networking sites such as Facebook as a means of tracing and directly contacting individuals. Provided that a Facebook profile can be verified as being that of the individual in question, and also that the profile is being actively used by that individual, the prospect of serving proceedings via Facebook would therefore appear to be viable in appropriate cases.

For further information please contact Dorian Rees on dorianrees@hewitsons.com or on 01604 233233.

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