The Legal Issues of Trading Online
When planning your website project, or indeed if you already have a website, there are a number of legal issues that you need to consider and it is your responsibility to ensure that all legal requirements are met. Here are just some of the general guidelines to follow:
Non e-commerce websites
- Include copyright information: "© Copyright Company name 2008. All rights reserved"
- Watch out for internet libel – don't allow defamatory statements against customers / competitors and make sure that you police messages and topics posted to bulletin boards
- Conform to data protection – include a privacy statement on the web site, or something like 'your continued use of our web site constitutes your consent to our processing of your personal data'. Tell customers what information will be collected, to whom the data will be disclose, what purpose is the data to be process for. Position this information just before the 'submit' button on a contact form.
- If the company is a limited company, include the registered address, company number and VAT number if relevant. The best place for this is on the contact page and make sure that you include the information on all emails sent by the company.
- You will need SSL & encryption software
- Make sure that you include all the components of a binding contract – Offer (made by the customer, e.g. adding to their basket), Acceptance (accepted by the web site), Consideration (monies paid, and clear statement of intention to create legal relations.
- Inclusion of a defined purchase procedure is advisable – e.g. "how to place an order"
- Information you must display include: trading status, address, returns address, email & telephone, professional affiliations, registration for VAT.
When distance selling you need to provide the same rights as selling in a shop:
These are just some of the issues that you need to consider. Please note that this information is offered as general advice and that companies should seek the services of a solicitor when embarking upon a website project or for seeking advice on the content of their existing site.
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