Is your website legal?

Did you know that your website could be illegal? There are several important pieces of information that all businesses in the UK and EU must display if they are to comply with the law.
These are as follows:

  1. Company information: A UK-registered business must display company information such as business name, registration number, registered address, place of registration and trade organisation memberships (if any).
    In the case of sole traders and partnerships, the principle place of business must be displayed.
  2. Privacy Policy: Websites must display a Privacy Policy IF data is processed (e.g. a contact form or checkout) and must inform the user on what the data is used for and that it is compliant with the Data Protection Act 1988. The Privacy Policy must also explain the purpose of any cookies that are created by the site.
  3. Disability discrimination: Websites must comply with the Equality Act 2010. All website owners must make sure their content is available to all users  (e.g. the visually impaired). Failure to comply may be considered ‘unlawful disability discrimination’.
  4. Disclaimer: Websites must display a disclaimer. Visitors to a website can use the information published on it to the extent stipulated in the disclaimer, and the document should also state that the website owner does not accept any liability that may arise from using or downloading information from the website.
  5. Terms & Conditions:Terms, along with a Delivery and Returns Policy (where appropriate) are all required as part of the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations and Electronic Commerce Regulations (EC Directive). These terms must state:
    • The identity of the supplier and address
    • A description of the service
    • The contract price inclusive of taxes (if applicable)
    • Delivery costs (if applicable)
    • Payment and delivery arrangement
    • Notification of the right of cancellation
    • The cost of the means of communication by which the contract is to be concluded (e.g. premium rate telephone numbers)
    • The period for which the terms are available
    • Minimum duration of the contract, where it is not of one-off performance
  6. Cookies: Legislation changes in 2012 required websites to gain explicit user consent to leave cookies on the visitor’s computer unless the cookie is a necessary requirement for the website to function (e.g. shopping cart cookies).
    Cookies: The Law has now been altered to state that “implied consent” is now acceptable. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) published guidance at the 11th hour of the change in the Law relating to the ‘ePrivacy Drective’, stating that it was acceptable meerly to make users aware that cookies were bewing used on a website, without gaining their explicit permission to use them. More information can be found here.

What are the risks of not complying?

If a website fails to comply with some or all of the rules listed above, it could generate two kinds of legal liability: civil liability and criminal liability. Civil liability may lead to injunctions and damages payments; criminal liability could mean a fine and a criminal record.

This article is only a basic guide to the legal requirements placed upon UK website owners. To ensure your website is fully compliant, we recommend that you contact a legal expert.