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How do I make my website comply with the law?

26 Sep 2017

 

Have you ever thought of creating your own website, or are in the process of doing so?

 

Well there’s a lot that goes into creating a website. You need to consider the design aspects and how to make it reflect your brand. You need to develop all the functionality so you can take enquiries and provide all the features your users expect in a quality website.

 

It doesn’t stop there. There are other elements which must be built into a website. Some are a matter of good practice, and others are required by law. What to include depends on what purpose your website serves. Do you provide useful content for your users? Is it an eCommerce site providing goods and services? Is it a place where users can download digital content?

 

Let’s delve into some of the important elements your website should include to comply with the law.

 

Business information

 

First, you need to ensure that your customers know who they are doing business with.

 

If you have a registered company, then the requirements are clear. You should include your company name as stated on the Companies House register. If you have a different name under which you trade, you can always include your company name followed by ‘trading as’, followed by the business name you are known by.

 

You should also include your company’s registration number and registered business address, and the country in which it was incorporated.

 

This way, your customers know exactly who they are dealing with.

 

Website disclaimers

 

If your website is designed to provide useful information to its visitors, then you must consider whether users can rely on that information. People can often rely on generic advice they come across which is for guidance purposes only. This can present a big risk to both the supplier of that information, and the person relying on it.

 

Another issue is that most online content has a shelf life. What’s correct today may not necessarily be accurate tomorrow. This guide is a great example of that.

 

This is where website disclaimers come into play. They help your users understand what information you provide, what purpose it can serve, and under what circumstances it can be relied upon.

 

Your disclaimer can be contained in a simple set of website terms. Make it prominent so users have a clear understanding of how they can use the information they come across on your site.

 

Data protection

 

UK data protection laws have seen significant development in recent years. It’s a hot topic for businesses, and an area where businesses should take extra care to ensure they are compliant.

 

If you handle or process personal information belonging to your customer, for example, names, email addresses, credit card information, then you must register your organisation with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). Registration is quick and simple, and helps the organisation understand what sort of information your business collects, what it’s used for, and how you look after it.

 

You should also let your customers know that same information. The best way to do this is by providing a clear and succinct privacy policy which is readily accessible on your website. Alternatively, you could include the relevant information in your website terms, provided the information can be easily found by your customers.

 

Cookies policy

 

Cookies are small data files stored on a user’s computer when they visit a website. They help businesses track visitor activity and their journey through the site. Even more importantly, cookies can help with retargeting adverts to potential customers.

 

Because of this ability to track users, cookies are another area which may introduce data protection and privacy issues.

 

The law requires that websites clearly show that it uses cookies, and how it uses them. There are different ways you can provide website visitors with this information. The most common is through a banner which displays when a new user visits your site for the first time.

 

The Information Commissioner’s Office provides a wealth of free information for businesses on both data protection and privacy law.

 

Consumer protection

 

If you sell goods or services through your website, then your business must comply with the Consumer Contracts Regulations.

 

For online transactions to be valid, you must provide your customers the following information:

 

  • A description of the goods, services or digital content you offer for sale

  • The total price payable, including any additional costs such as delivery

  • When and how payment can be made

  • If the customer can return the goods and under what circumstances. Customers should have the right to return goods purchased online within 14 days of taking possession

  • A simple cancellation method should they wish to cancel their order

 

There may be further requirements depending on the types of goods and services you offer for sale. The .gov website provides further resources for businesses on distance and online selling.

 

Building the perfect website

 

This goes beyond just creating a website that’s beautifully designed and functions well. The perfect website includes all the additional requirements which protect you and business, and shows your customers that you’re a business they can trust. What could be more important than that?

 

This list is not definitive, and there are lot more you could and should consider. Check out some of our other legal business guides for even more help on how to protect your business.

 

Did you find this article useful?

 

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