Email correspondence has by and large superseded physical correspondence and email signatures have effectively replaced company letterheads as the first impression a third party has of a company’s corporate branding identity. However, a company will usually have a letterhead for use for company correspondence.

As part of setting up, a company should create a letterhead as it is likely to be required for some formal company correspondence and FICA Know Your Client verification with the company’s banks, attorneys and lessors.

The Companies Act 2008 requires a company to include its name and registration number in its notices, orders, letters, delivery notes, invoices, receipts and letters of credit.

In addition to including the company’s name and registration number, although not legal requirements, we recommend that a letterhead includes the company’s:

  • South African telephone number and email address; and
  • physical address (it is not necessary to include the company’s registered address if it is different from the physical address).

This will provide the recipient the company’s essential information at a glance.

It is no longer necessary to list the directors on the letterhead.

Chapter 4 of the Consumer Protection Act 2008 (which has not yet come into force) will require people who carry on business with consumers to include the following details on any letter, trade catalogue or circular, order, sales record or statement of account:

  • the name, title or description under which the business is carried on;
  • the primary place from which the business is carried on; and
  • if the company is using a business name (rather than just its registered name), the name of the person to whom that business name is registered.

Once Chapter 4 comes into force a company should register its business name as soon as possible and ensure that it is used continuously to avoid a third party challenge to its registration.

Although the use of snail mail physical correspondence continues to diminish, a letterhead remains a key impression that third parties may have of a company. If the company is part of a group, the letterhead should be in line with the group’s requirements and design for consistency and brand recognition. Ultimately, a company’s letterhead should be designed to represent the image that the company wishes to portray and be consistent with the company’s other branding and design.