x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Australian couple loses home via Facebook

Lawyers in Australia have used Facebook to tell a couple that their home is to be seized, after more traditional attempts at communication failed.

CANBERRA // You've been "superpoked" - and served. An attorney in Australia has used the popular networking website Facebook to notify a couple they lost their home after defaulting on a loan. The Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court approved lawyer Mark McCormack's application to use Facebook to serve the legally binding documents last Friday after several failed attempts to contact the couple at the house and by e-mail.

Australian courts have given permission in the past for people to be served via e-mail and text messages when it was not possible to serve them in person. The lender's application to take back the house in the capital, Canberra, was approved on Oct 3 after the couple failed to appear in court. The lender was then required to serve the so-called default judgment on the couple before it could seize the property.

"It's somewhat novel, however we do see it as a valid method of bringing the matter to the attention of the defendant," said Mr McCormack, who represents a mortgage lender. Facebook has become a wildly popular online hangout, attracting more than 140 million users worldwide since it launched in 2004. Facebook friends can "poke" or "superpoke" each other - terms for giving someone a playful nudge. Lawyer and computer forensic expert Seamus Byrne said he was aware of only one similar case in Australia. A Queensland state District Court judge ruled in April against documents being served by Facebook because the option of contacting a person via a post office box had not yet been exhausted. In the latest ruling, Master David Harper insisted that the documents be attached to a private e-mail sent via Facebook that could not be seen by others visiting the pages.

Mr McCormack said he and a colleague found the woman's Facebook page using personal details that she had given the lender including her birth date and e-mail address. The man was listed on her page as a friend. Neither had imposed security options that deny strangers access to their pages. The lawyer said he did not bother searching for the couple through any other social networking sites. "It's one of those occasions where you feel most at home with what you know and I myself have a Facebook account," Mr McCormack said.

* AP