Handling evasive subjects is a constant challenge for process servers. From inaccurate address information to simply refusing to open the door, there are numerous ways to avoid service of process. But emerging technologies introduce the idea of electronic methods of process service and may address some of these issues. WhatsApp is one of these tools that has the potential to be a reliable way to serve a subject.
What is WhatsApp?
WhatsApp is a Facebook-owned mobile messaging application through which a user can send encrypted text messages, images, and both voice and video calls. It is one of the most popular messaging applications with a user base of over one and a half billion. It’s also used all around the world with India being the largest market in terms of the number of users. It’s used in lieu of other messaging apps because it uses an internet connection to send messages rather than a mobile network, resulting in lower text messaging costs.
How WhatsApp Could be Used for Service of Process
The biggest issue with digital means of service is the inability to prove service happened. While you can send an email or fax, you can’t ensure that the subject received their service. With WhatsApp, documents can be sent via text and two blue ticks acknowledge that the recipient opened the message.
Using WhatsApp for service of process also expedites the legal process. Where there is a buildup of cases due to unserved jobs, WhatsApp provides an alternative way for attorneys and their clients to serve elusive subjects. It’s important to know that this, and other similar digital methods of service, can only be used when all other options are exhausted. The preferable way to serve for most courts is still in person.
When using WhatsApp, it’s also essential to prove that the phone number and account belong to the intended recipient. You can do this via past communications that also prove that the app is actively used by the subject.
The most significant uses of WhatsApp for the purpose of service have occurred in India. In one of these landmark cases, Kross Television India Pvt Ltd & Another vs Vikhyat Chitra Production & Others, Justice Gautam Patel of Bombay High Court permitted the serving of a summons through WhatsApp after normal avenues for serving summons proved unsuccessful.
In a more recent case, Justice Surabhi Sharma Vats of the Delhi High Court allowed a woman to use WhatsApp to serve her estranged husband living in Australia. In the case, the court considered the “double-tick” as proof of a valid delivery of summons.
In the US, a Queens judge ruled that a lawsuit regarding a faulty luxury watch could be served through WhatsApp. Normal means of service didn’t make sense for this particular subject as their address didn’t exist and his name didn’t come up in a public records search.
WhatsApp Service Implications
Service via WhatsApp further advances the discussion of the future of service and where the legal field may go in the future. While the implications for process servers are unclear, it illustrates that servers must always be mindful of new technology.
Process servers are necessary to due process and validate that papers were properly served to the right party. If digital service increases in popularity, process servers’ work may change to validate online profiles, phone numbers, emails, and other digital services to ensure that electronic service is accurately effectuated to the correct party.
Whatever the future holds, process servers should be mindful of new advancements and make their services useful and relevant in a changing legal landscape.
The Future of Service?
Recently, service through Facebook, social media, and email were accepted in cases where service proves impossible by usual means. While it is legally still an exception to be used in specific cases where no other options are applicable, the use of WhatsApp for process service could be the next step in using digital means to successfully serve.
As process servers, what are your opinions of digital service? Do the benefits outweigh any disadvantages? How can process servers ensure that they remain on the right side of technological advancements?