All business websites need to stick to rules set out under UK and EU law, regardless of whether the site is used for e-commerce.

They need to address such things as:

Registered information. For a UK registered business, the website must display company details, either the registered or trading address and Vat details where relevant. For sole traders and partnerships, the address of the principal place of business must be displayed, even if it is from a home address. If you trade from the web site the Vat number and any company registration information where relevant. If you trade from home and are concerned about privacy, speak to the Post Office about options.

Cookies. Legislation requires that websites must obtain user consent to leave cookies on the visitor’s computer unless the cookie is a necessary requirement for the website to function.

Privacy issues. A privacy policy or data protection notice must be displayed on the website if data is processed.

Online payments. If you take payments on your website you must meet the 12 requirements of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Even if you use third-party payment gateways such as PayPal or SagePay some points will still apply.

Online advertising and marketing. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) regulates advertising and marketing for websites. When advertising to consumers, consideration must be given to The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 which Prohibit unfair commercial practices generally, including unfair advertising. Similarly, the business protection from misleading regulations 2008, regulates B2B advertising.

Consumer protection. For a sale to be valid, certain information must be provided to meet The Consumer Contracts Regulation. This includes good descriptions of products, the full cost, company information, returns information and cancellation procedures. Failure to meet these regulations could result in cancellation rights being extended to up to one year.

Intellectual property. IP is often a particularly key asset for a Web business. Ensure that your IP is protected and that neither you nor your users are infringing any third-party IP.

Terms and conditions. Terms and conditions are essential for protecting your business and possibly your personal interests when selling online. They should set out what the agreed terms are between the parties, what the payment terms are, how far are you liable if something goes wrong, whether you provide any guarantees or warranties and cover what happens if things go wrong or one party wants to terminate the agreement.

Failure to comply with some or all of the above could generate two kinds of legal liability: civil and criminal. Civil liability may lead to injunctions and damages payments. Criminal liability could mean a fine and a criminal record, possibly worse.

This is only a basic guide to legal requirements for websites. To ensure your website is fully compliant please contact a qualified commercial lawyer registered with The Law Society.



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