14 Jun 2017

Is your website legal?

Is Your Website Legal? | Laser Red, Lincolnshire

You may not be aware, but there are several things you should legally have on your website to prevent being fined by governing bodies.

May 2018 brings the introduction of GDPR, which is an updated version of the 1998 Data Protection Act. We will be bringing you more information on this over the coming months, so keep an eye out for this. However, before this comes into place, it is vital that you have the basic legal requirements on your website. Here is a quick guide we have put together to help you.

Business Information

It may seem simple, but so many people don’t include their full business information on their website. By full, we mean:

  • Company name and number
  • Registered office address, along with place of registration (e.g. England)
  • Contact details, including an email address
  • A way to contact the business non-electronically (usually a phone number)
  • The registered VAT number of the business
  • Details of any trade body or regulator registration

Privacy Policy

Both the Data Protection Act, and the eCommerce Regulations explain that a website must clearly state when it is collecting personal data.

But don’t worry, this does not have to be in the form of an intrusive pop-up when visitors come onto your site. As long as you have a privacy policy which clearly details this information, that is sufficient.

If you are not sure how to write a privacy policy, have a look at ours as a guide.

Cookie Disclosure

Cookies are everywhere, but are you using them correctly and legally? We have previously explained what a cookie is, but if you need a refresher here is the link.

Many websites show a pop-up on arrival to the site, explaining that cookies are used. This is not a strict requirement – it doesn’t have to be glaringly obvious.

As long as you have information on how you are using cookies within your Privacy Policy, or have a separate cookie policy – either of these will suffice. Make sure you explain what you intend to do with customer data, and how long you will hold onto it.

Selling to Consumers

If you have an e-commerce website, unfortunately you have a few more things to consider! Remember you are taking payment information from people, and have a duty of care. The extras that you need to display to consumers are:

  • Give the consumer written confirmation of their order
  • Comply with the cancellation period requirements
  • Have the technical means for a customer to correct any mistake in an order
  • Details of whether the contract will be permanently filed
  • If the contract can be accessed by the customer only
  • The technical steps needed to carry out the transaction

This information is fine to be displayed within your terms of business (a legal requirement consumers agree to when making purchases).

Without terms of business, you are breaking the law – as there is no binding contract. It also means that customers can cancel their orders many months after purchase. So you could be shooting yourself in the foot!

Laser Red Digital Agency - Terms of Business Blog Post

Your basic terms of business should be provided to customers before they purchase, and should cover the following (as a minimum):

  • Details of the goods/services offered
  • Delivery arrangements and charges
  • Supplier details
  • Consumer cancellation rights

Most companies include these as separate categories within their website. Think about your favourite clothes shop. They will have a delivery and returns section (which is easy to find), along with how to cancel an order.

Business Correspondence

So, we have addressed your website. Finally, you need to consider your business emails. Your signature should contain all the usual business information (company name, address and registration number).

However, the part that people often neglect is the confidentiality notice. This is to cover you in case the email has been sent by mistake to the wrong person.

This notice should have the following, displayed within the footer:

  • A sentence excluding liability to someone other than the intended recipient for the contents of the email
  • A sentence excluding liability for any viruses (for example) which may be attached
  • A sentence explaining that the views and opinions of employees may not align with those of the business

Consequences of Non-Compliance

All of this may seem like a bit of a chore, particularly if you are a new company starting out. However, failure to comply with these regulations can result in your business receiving huge fines.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and Trading Standards can each single out your website. Consumers can also get in touch with these bodies directly if they notice you are failing to comply.

You don’t want unhappy consumers from the get go!

New Regulations

As we mentioned earlier on, website legal requirements are continually being reassessed and updated. The main thing you need to be aware of is the new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). Although this is being enforced in May 2018, you need to start preparing your business now.

We will be bringing a short series of blogs explaining what you need to do to prevent huge fines (of up to 10 million Euros, or 2% of your global turnover). But for now, the ICO has the basic information to get you started.

We don’t mean to scare you, but at the same time these are things that you need to be aware of!

For any further information on this article, or guidance on how to display your business terms or privacy policy, get in touch today.

The authors

Charlotte Perrelle - Digital Marketer at Laser Red
Charlotte Perrelle
Digital Marketer