Bacon v Automattic Inc [2011] EWHC 1072 (QB)

In this case, the Applicant applied for permission to serve claim forms out of the jurisdiction on the Respondent US companies, and also for an order for service to be by email.

The Applicant argued that various defamatory articles and comments had been posted on the Respondent’s websites, and so sought a Norwich Pharmacal order requiring the Respondent to disclose information that would assist the Applicant in identifying the person or persons responsible. The Applicant asserted that the court had power, under CPR 6.40(3), to authorise service by an alternative method under CPR 6.15(1) and 6.37(5)(b)(i).

In granting the application, the Court held that the power to authorise service by an alternative method should be exercised under CPR 6.15 rather than CPR 6.37.

CPR 6.15 requires the court’s order to specify certain matters, which are set out in CPR 6.15(4). There must be a good reason, within the meaning of CPR 6.15(1), for service by an alternative method. In this case, the Respondents agreed to service of the order by email, and it could therefore be inferred that they would probably have agreed to service of the claim form in the same way. For one of the Respondents, its website invited service by email.  

The court therefore had the power to order service on the Respondents in the US by email at the addresses which had been notified to the Applicant either by correspondence or through the Respondents’ website.