Websites and Legals…

It is strange how so many small business owners behave very differently online from their everyday working environment.

For example, take websites and their compliance with legal requirements and standards. Most owners of a small business will be reasonably aware of the legal guidelines which they must adhere to in the day to day operation of their business in whatever field they operate. However, once they venture online many businesses have a presence which does not meet legal requirements. Partly this is because the internet is relatively new and regulation is still developing, partly because of a shortage of good advice as to what is required. Unfortunately, although “No-one told me” is not a defence” it is often a reality.

We live in a world which is increasingly regulated, and if you have an online presence you need to be aware that the legal scrutiny of websites is becoming more rigorous, more regulated and at an increasing frequency.

So what should you do?

Firstly, which laws apply? If a business is physically based in the UK, then UK will usually apply even if your website is hosted in another country. Websites then need to comply both with the Companies Act (2006) and the Business Names Act (1985). For an e-commerce site, Electronic Commerce Regulations (2002) will also apply, as will the Distance Selling Regulations.

Second, in addition to the legal side, a whole host of other considerations also need to be adhered to:-

–          The Disability Discrimination Act (2004)

–          Data Protection

–          Trade Descriptions

–          Advertising Guidelines and Endorsements

–          Image Rights and Intellectual Property Rights.

The important thing is to take advice and to get your website checked. Ask your web designer to take a look as they will be accustomed to the basics which need to go on every website; ask Trading Standards if you have a query, or for a complex site take legal advice.

And most important of all, remember the bit earlier that ignorance is not a defence? If something is wrong, it is the business owner who is responsible for ensuring that their website meets legal requirements.


Written by Paul Evanson

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