Toe the Line When You Trade Online

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You may not be aware but over the past few years there have been quite a number of changes to the law governing online businesses and with the latest of these coming into effect as recently as February, what better time to familiarise yourself with the requirements.

To start off simply and in what has been in place since 2002, the Electronic Commerce Regulations require all businesses to display their full business name on their website and that is whether you operate as a company, partnership, sole trader or other form of business. On the topic of established legislation, all businesses obtaining personal data (particularly through websites) should implement a Privacy & Cookies Policy on their website to ensure that the requirements of the Data Protection Act are complied with. With the ability to hand out six figure fines for non-compliance, businesses are well advised to stay on the right side of the Information Commissioner’s Office and therefore it is of great importance that compliant policies are drafted and used.

More recently however, the government has been focussing on strengthening the rights of consumers and in addition to last year’s Consumer Rights Act, overhauling all types of business to consumer transaction, the Consumer Contracts Regulations have been implemented to deal with all ‘off premises’ transactions involving consumers. The Regulations – which are at the heart of trading via the internet – came into force during the summer of 2014 and replaced the Distance Selling Regulations, giving consumers a lengthier period of 14 days during which they may, for whatever reason, change their mind (or ‘cool off’) and cancel a contract for goods or services. There are certain rules and exceptions to be aware of though so if you’re dealing in bespoke goods or perishable items such as food then you may be able to prevent this.

In addition to having an enhanced cooling off period, consumers are also now required to be provided with certain pre-contractual information (such as the identity of the business, cancellation procedure and any additional charges which they may have to pay). Failure to provide the right information may mean a consumer having a longer cooling off period so it’s important that your terms and conditions cover all of the necessary small print.

Most recently, the ‘catchily’ titled Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes Regulations mean that all online traders must provide a link to the new EU Online Dispute Resolution platform and information on who consumers can contact if they have an issue with businesses.

With so many changes in such a short period of time, this is a lot for businesses to take in but with enhanced powers for Trading Standards where businesses are found to be non-compliant it is important that you are fully abreast of the requirements and introduce the right terms and conditions. For advice and assistance on how to ensure that your business is compliant contact John Pickervance, Solicitor within the Corporate and Restructuring department by email; john.pickervance@forbessolicitors.co.uk or phone 0800 321 3258. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

 

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