The Commercial Court set aside an arbitration award becausethe Claimant’s emailed arbitration notice to an individual employee at the Respondent did not constitute valid service under the Arbitration Act 1996.

The employee in question had been involved in the performance of the contract before the dispute had arisen but was described as a junior back office employee in the operations department. The Court found that he did not have authority (actual or ostensible) to accept service of an arbitration notice and the notice had not therefore been validly served. The arbitration never came to the attention of the anyone with such authority, and the Respondent did not participate in the arbitration.

The case serves as a reminder of the importance of considering how best to effect service, including identifying who within an organisation is authorised to accept service, in particular when attempting to serve by email in circumstances when this has not been agreed with the other party.