Court allows service of documents by social media

Generally, all originating processes must be served in person. However, where personal service is unsuccessful or impractical, a Plaintiff can apply for substituted service, which includes use of electronic means of service.  In the recent case of Storey, David Ian Andrew v Planet Akradia Pte Ltd and others [2016] SGHCR 7, the Court permitted substituted service via Skype, Facebook and internet message boards. The High Court also observed that the phrase “electronic means” is wide enough to include WhatsApp and other smartphone messaging platforms linked to mobile phones.

The question of whether a court will allow service via social media is likely to turn on whether the applicant can demonstrate that:

(a) Attempts to effect through traditional methods of substituted service were unsuccessful;
(b) That a service through an electronic platform will be effective in bringing the communication to the Defendant’s attention;
(c) The electronic platform in question is used by the person to be served;
(d) There is  proof that the electronic platform in question was recently used by the person to be served. For instance, there must have been activity within a reasonable time frame.

The High Court, however, noted that electronic service per se to effect substituted service is insufficient. Electronic service must therefore be accompanied by conventional forms of substituted service, such as, posting on the front door of the defendant’s known address or via AR registered post. The aforementioned forms of service would be dispensed with if the address of the person to be served is attested to be unknown or if there is proof that the person no longer owns or is no longer a resident at the said address.

The decision is significant as it is now easier for a Plaintiff to effect service and correspondingly more difficult for a Defendant to evade service.

Please contact Mr N. Sreenivasan, SC, at sreeni@straitslaw.com.sg, Mr Shankar A.S. at shankar@straitslaw.com.sg or the director who usually deals with your matters if you require more information with regard to this article.