Legal issues concerning websites
There are a variety of legal issues that may relate to your website:
- Minimum information to be provided on websites
- Contact Details must be provided on Websites
- Minimum information to be provided on business emails
- Data Protection
- Opt out or Opt in?
- Email Marketing
- Distance Selling and Online Trading
- Cannot make a Charge on Returned Goods
- Trade Mark Keyword Online Advertising
- Disability Accessibility
Websites, whether involved in e-commerce or not, should provide at least:
- The name of the service provider. This might differ from the trading name and any such difference should be explained – e.g. "XYZ.com is the trading name of XYZ Enterprises Limited."
- Email address of the service provider. It is not sufficient to include a 'contact us' form without also providing an email address.
- The geographic address of the service provider. A PO Box is unlikely to suffice as a geographic address; but a registered office address would.
- If the business is a company, the registered office address, the company's registration number and the place of registration (e.g. "XYZ Enterprises Limited is a company registered in England and Wales with company number 1234567").
- If the business is a member of a trade or professional association, membership details, including any registration number.
- If the business has a VAT number, it should be stated.
- Any prices quoted on the website must be clear and unambiguous. Also, state whether prices are inclusive of tax and delivery costs.
Companies have to provide a means of contact on their websites in addition to their postal and email addresses, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled. A telephone number, or a contact form that is answered within 60 minutes, were deemed acceptable. From Out-Law.com
If your business is a private or public limited company or a Limited Liability Partnership from January 2007 yourÂ business emails must include the following details in legible characters:
- Your company'sÂ registeredÂ name (e.g. XYZ Ltd)
- Your company registration number;
- Your place of registration (e.g. Scotland or England & Wales); and
- Your registered office address
It is not enough to provide a link to this information from an email footer. From Out-Law.com
Copyright gives the creator of certain types of material rights to control the use or commercial exploitation of that material. This includes material published on the internet.
So you cannot use someone else's text copy or photos or images on your website without their permission. Some creators or authors may allow you to use their material for free provided they are credited. Many great images and photos are available for a small charge from websites like Istockphoto.
A copyright notice on a website will often set out what you can and can't do with the material on that site. You may wish to add a suitable copyright notice to your own website. The absence of a copyright notice does not mean you are free to reuse the material on that website - by default you should assume that other people's works is covered by copyright unless stated otherwise.
Data Protection requires that you notify the Information Commissioner what you are going to use the personal data you collect for. The Business Link website is helpful should you want to investigate your Data Protection obligations.
In the past website forms tended to be set up such that if you accepted the defaults you were assumed to agree to whatever was being asked (eg "Accept new product and marketing information." or "Agree to information being passed to business partners") So the boxes were ticked for you already and you had to untick them to "opt out".
This is no longer acceptable - now the default position must be that the visitor does something positive (eg tick the box) to "opt in" otherwise you do not have their permission therefore you do not have the right.
It is illegal to send unsolicited email messages except in limited circumstances. If customers have consented to receiving information from you in the past, ie opted in, you can send them information on other things you think they might be interested in. You must give these people the option to opt out of receiving any further messages from you.
The Business Link site provides a detailed list of all your legal obligations regarding email marketing.
There are a number of rules that will apply if you are selling online. The Business Link website is a good source of information on Distance Selling and Online Trading.
You can also download the guide to Distance Selling Regulations from the Office of Fair Trading website (PDF)
Online retailers cannot reclaim some of the purchase price of goods even if they are returned after a long time and have given the user some benefit, an advocate general of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has said.
Buyers can return goods and get a full refund in the first one to two weeks of ownership of goods. Retailers are barred from imposing charges and penalties on people returning goods. The only charge that may be made to the consumer because of the exercise of his right of withdrawal is the direct cost of returning the goods. From Out-Law.com
The world's largest flower delivery firm has sued Marks and Spencer at the High Court in London for sponsoring the word 'Interflora' as a search engine keyword. The case could be an important test of how UK trade mark laws apply to keyword advertising. From Out-Law.com
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 make it illegal for web sites to discriminate against a disabled person.
Traditional web design techniques create web sites that do actively discriminate against disabled persons by making it harder for them to use the web site than it needs to be. Typically graphic design techniques put more emphasis on making a web site look the way it is designed to look rather than allowing for the different requirements of the end user. So in most cases Accessibility features are disregarded or ignored completely as they are an inconvenience that may be restricting the web site designer. The web site owner is often" none the wiser".
One of the simplest tests you can do to see if your website follows the most basic of Accessibility requirements is to see if your web site text size changes if you reset the text size in the IE Browser (View/Text Size) - all your text should change size.
Web sites must make "reasonable adjustments" to the way in which they work to enable the disabled to use them. If you own a commercial website which is inaccessible to the disabled, you could be be sued as a result, and damages could be awarded against you.
And here is a standard disclaimer: Please note the pages on this website contain general information only - nothing here constitutes legal advice. We make no warranties about the content of our own site or of sites to which we link.
Michael Spencer, Managing Director.
Epsilis - Website Designers
47 Farthing Drive
Letchworth Garden City