Be Web Legal – Website Legal Requirements

Posted by Stephen on 25th May 2016

All websites in the UK that operate as a business must include a range of key information to be legally compliant. Failure to comply with the law can result in fines and bad publicity. Below we look in detail at website legal requirements:

Website Legal Requirements Image

What Information and Where?

Under a range of legislation *, information relating to the identity of the business must be displayed on the website.

The provision of information is the key focus of the legislation that sets out what a website needs to be legally compliant.

The information is best contained in the terms of use for the website. If you don’t have a set on your site, then you can get our template terms of use of website here.

Business Information

The information to display is:

  • Company name and number or other business identity
  • Registered office address and place of registration (e.g. “England and Wales”)
  • Contact details, including an email address
  • Details of how to contact the business by non electronic means
  • The VAT number of the business, if applicable
  • Details of any trade body or regulator registration

Privacy Information

The Data Protection Act and the eCommerce Regulations require that certain information is explained to visitors to a website.

A website must confirm whether it actively collects personal data relating to visitors to the website. If it does, then it needs to set out a range of further information.

This can all be covered in the privacy policy for the website. Some of the information overlaps with that covered above:

  • the identity of the business
  • what personal information is collected by the business
  • what use will be made of the personal information

Cookie Disclosure

When the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations were updated, it became a legal requirement to take certain steps to notify a visitor to a website if the site uses cookies.

The requirement is to take reasonable steps to notify the visitor.

Many of you will be familiar with the pop-ups on many sites that explain that they use cookies. This is not a strict requirement. It is sufficient to set out in a Cookies Policy or within the Privacy Policy if and how your business uses cookies on the website.

Consequences of not Complying

Failure to comply with the information disclosure requirements covered above can result in fines being received. The Information Commissioner’s Office and local Trading Standards offices can each bring action against the business running the website.

People using the website can also bring a claim if they can show loss as a result of your failure to comply with the legislation.

Sales to Consumers

In this article we have looked at information that must be made available to all visitors to your website.

If you run an e-commerce website and you sell to consumers, then you also need to consider some additional points. These points can be covered in your terms of business. They are:

  • giving the consumer written confirmation of their order
  • comply with the cancellation/cooling off period requirements
  • the need to set out the technical steps required to complete the transaction
  • the technical means for a customer to correct any mistake in an order before completing their purchase and
  • whether the contract will be permanently filed and whether it can be accessed by the customer

If you do not have a set of terms of business that you require consumers to agree to when making purchases, then you are breaking the law, you run the risk of consumers cancelling orders many months after the purchase!

Also you are legally very exposed. Your terms must be provided before they buy and at least cover:

  • details of the goods or services offered
  • delivery arrangements and charges
  • the supplier’s details and
  • the consumer’s cancellation rights

You can get a set in our website contracts section.

Business Correspondence

Finally consider your business emails as there are legal requirements that relate to these too. Whilst not a website legal compliance issue, do bear in mind that the business information disclosure requirements relating to the website must also be included in your business’s emails.

Generally the information is added in the email footer. (You can also get an email disclaimer here.)

Website Legal Requirements Evolve

As a business owner with a website, a key point to bear in mind is that website legal requirements change frequently. As technology advances, the law plays catch up.

As you will see in the footnote below, the government started rolling out new laws relevant to websites back in 1998 and as recent as last year was rolling out yet more legislation.

This is a fast moving area, so do keep yourself and your website updated! One way to do this is to sign up to our newsletter to receive legal updates as they take place – see the sign-up box at the bottom of this page if you are interested.

Keep all of the above in mind and stay web legal!

 

* The Data Protection Act 1998; The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002; the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013; the Companies Act 2006 and the Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business (Names and Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2015.