Is your website legal?
Just like your logo, and your business stationery there are certain things that businesses must do to make sure that their website provides all the necessary information. Now websites, unlike logos and stationery, really do vary hugely from company to company and this means that not every website has to adhere to all of the conditions listed. However, it is something which all business owners should be aware of, and if you have any doubts always consult your solicitor.
Your disclaimer specifies the extent to which visitors can use the information published on your site, and it should also stipulate that you do not accept any liabilities based on information found on your website.
EU Anti Spam Laws (also applying to marketing emails)
Email lists must be of an ‘opt-in’ nature and you must always include ‘opt-out’ instructions on all marketing emails.
Terms and Conditions
Terms and conditions are required on all commerce websites as part of the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations and Electronic Commerce Regulations (EC Directive). They need to specify the identity of the supplier (and an address), a description of the service, the contract price (including tax), delivery costs (if applicable), payment and delivery arrangement, notification of the right of cancellation, the cost of communication (e.g. the use of premium rate phone numbers), the time for which the terms are available and the minimum duration of the contract.
Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)
The PCI DSS was created to prevent fraudulent credit/debit card payments. There are 12 key requirements which you must adhere to if you process card payments to ensure that you have sufficient security and encryption in place. You must have a suitable firewall, secure passwords, a valid SSL certificate to encrypt submitted data, anti virus software on your server, and that access to this data is secure and restricted.
If data or any kind of personal information is being processed by your website then you must inform the user what this information is used for and that your use of the data is compliant with the Data Protection Act 1988. You must also explain the purpose of your website cookies.
New legislation last year requires that websites have the user’s permission to leave cookies on a user’s computer (unless the cookie is necessary for the website to function – such as shopping cart cookies). See more about EU Cookie Law Policy here.
You should have a copyright mark on your website to claim ownership of the design and content on your site.
In any cases where you have used images or content from third parties this must be attributed correctly, and be done with permission of the author/copyright holder. Blog authors need to be particularly vigilant as it can be all too tempting to take engaging images off of Google and this is not legal. You need explicit written permission from the copyright holder to use third party images. You can buy royalty free images from image banks such as istockphoto.com or by searching for creative commons images (where the author has given permission for their work to be used freely by the public).
Don’t plagiarise the work of others by copying it and trying to pass it off as your own content. It is extremely easy to find plagiarists out on the internet as a quick google search will reveal the truth. If you are worried that have read the content of a competitor and cannot seem to find a better way to rephrase then consult a copywriter.
All UK registered businesses must display their company information including the official business name, place of registration, their registered number, the registered company address and whether or not your company is a member of a trade organisation. Sole traders and partnerships need to display the address of the principle place of business.
Consult your solicitor – every website/company is different
We aren’t legal experts so we do advise speaking with your solicitor so you are aware of the conditions you have to fulfil to make sure your website is legal. If you are unsure which of the above criteria your website currently fulfils, or potentially needs to then get in touch with your web developer who will be able to tell you what cookies your website has etc.
They can also advise you on other pages you can have on your website to reduce ambiguity and prevent other legal problems. For instance, for larger companies detailing a complaints or feedback procedure, or you may wish to state your company patents, trademarks and other corporate policies – it can be useful to have such things in the public domain.
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