The High Court has set aside a final arbitration award because it was emailed to someone without authority to receive it.

The Honourable Mr Justice Popplewell said it was insufficient to email an individual solely on the basis they had taken part in underlying proceedings and expect them to be able to accept service of arbitral proceedings.

The claimant in Glencore Agriculture BV v Conqueror Holdings Ltd told the court it had taken no part in arbitration and was unaware of the proceedings until it received the award by post in October 2016.

It transpired the notice of arbitration and other documents were sent to the email address of a Glencore Grain employee.

The employee had been a point of contact during a shipping dispute in relation to delays at a loading port and he became the recipient of a series of correspondence beginning in August 2015. In September 2015, the defendant sent a letter to the employee’s email address identifying the sum due on the balance of accounts and inviting Glencore Grain to agree to the appointment of a sole arbitrator.

After receiving no response, the defendant again emailed the employee in January 2016 to give notice of the appointment of an arbitrator, then continued to update him on progress of the case.

The court heard there was no response to any communications to the email address.

Glencore Grain described an employee as a junior back office employee who was not authorised to accept service, be it a claim form or a notice of arbitration. He told the court that none of the communications sent by Conqueror or the arbitrator was passed onto Glencore’s legal department.

Conqueror’s lawyers argued service was sufficient in this case because the employee was the individual who had dealt with operational matters in relation to the events which gave rise to the dispute. But Popplewell warned against conflating the role within a company of those whose function is operational, and those whose function involves dispute handling or dispute resolution.

He ruled Glencore Grain was not effectively served with the notice of commencement of arbitration and set aside the arbitration order for the claimant to pay around £33,000 plus costs.