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The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations introduced specific legislation to underpin e-commerce. If your business has an Internet presence then you need to make sure that you are not falling foul of these new rules.
The Regulations do not just apply to businesses that allow for online transactions, such as interactive shopping. They also apply to businesses which supply a service that is provided free of charge. The definition of service, within the context of this legislation, is wide.
Basically, the rules apply to most commercial enterprises that have a web site, even if it is just a basic brochure site.
Detailed information must now be published on all websites. The information required is:
All references to prices must be clear and must indicate whether or not any tax and delivery costs are included.
In addition, if your business is one where contracts are entered into by electronic means (excluding those carried out exclusively by exchange of e-mails) the following information must also be provided, in a way that it is read and clearly understood by the customer before they place an order for your goods and services:
Your customers must be able to view, print and store the terms and conditions applicable to the online contract. Once an order has been received electronically, you must acknowledge its receipt.
The following regulations apply to ‘commercial communications’, which covers a wide range of electronic communications including websites, e-mails and text messages sent for advertising purposes:
Don’t forget that legislation such as the Companies Act 2006 and the Business Names Act 1985 applies to electronic letters as well as to the hard copy variety.
For example, registered companies must include the same information in e-mail correspondence as they are obliged to give on business documents. This means that your emails should show the full name of the company, the registered number and the registered address.
Under UK case law, an e-mail delivered to a no longer used e-mail account which was previously used by a business was deemed to have been validly delivered, even though the management of the recipient business had not seen it. Be careful when changing e-mail addresses.
Websites and E-mail disclosure rules
In addition, new regulations were introduced in January 2007 which apply to all limited companies and limited liability partnerships (LLPs) and are designed to ensure compliance with EU regulations relating to company law. Failure to display the required information can result in a fine.
The information required includes:
For further information see the Companies (Registrar, Languages and Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2006. More recently, the law regarding the collection, use and retention of web cookies has been amended and has started being enforced in the UK from May 2012 and further enhanced by the implekentation of the General Data Protection Regulation, effective from May 2018.