Is your website breaking the law? Unfortunately, many web designers or agencies assume that the internet is a lawless void. Therefore failing to advise clients regarding the rules and regulations businesses should abide by before publishing a website.

A good web designer should be able to tell you about what website legalities before going ‘live’. Imagine starting your business and getting caught out resulting your website to being shut down!

In order to comply with the rules of running a legit online business I have listed eight important things that you must adhere to before publishing your website:

1. Company Information

It is a legal requirement for all online business owners to clearly display the company information on their website. These should be displayed on the footer of your website or contact form.

Sole Traders

  • Registered Office Address
  • Business Name
  • Contact Email Address

Registered Companies (LTD, PLC and LLC)

  • Place Of Registration (eg: UK)
  • Business Name
  • Registered Office Address
  • Contact Email Address
  • VAT Number (if any)
  • Trade Association Membership

2. Cookies

Cookies are small files stored on your visitor’s computer. They hold a small amount of data specific to your visitor and website.

If you have Google Analytics installed, then you will need to inform your visitors that you are tracking their visits, pages viewed, location etc..

It is required that your user consents to leave their ‘cookies’ while visiting your website. Your users need to be aware that you are using cookies and instructions on how  how to block or remove cookies if they wish. Cookie Consent should be displayed on your website as a form of a pop-up. Your visitors must have an option to agree or not whether they want cookies to track their visits.

3. Privacy Policy & Data Protection

A privacy policy is a must if your website process data. You must inform your visitors what the data is used for and that it is compliant with the Data Protection Act 1988.

It is important that you provide accessible information for your users on how you will use their data whilst visiting your website.

If you have Google Analytics installed, then you will need to inform your visitors that you are tracking their visits, pages viewed, location etc..

You will need this if you have the following:

  • Contact Form
  • E-commerce Store
  • Newsletter Subscribe Form
  • Analytics

Your privacy policy should be easily accessible on all pages of your website. Cleary explain how you will store and use their data and that you adhere to the Data Protection Act 1988.

A new legal requirement that came through in 2016 also requires you to place a link to the Online Dispute Resolution Platform. This gives consumer rights and resolve any complaint fairly and efficiently without having to going to court.

Your privacy policy should be visible on all pages of your website. This is usually placed on the footer of the pages.

4. Website Accessibility and the Disability Discrimination Act

Due to the equality act of 2010 website owners must ensure that their content is available for ALL users.

This mean, taking the necessary actions to make your website accessible for visitors who might have hearing or visual impairments.

Failure to comply may be considered as ‘unlawful disability discrimination’. A good web designer should be conscious of accessibility issues when designing a website.

Your website should be designed so that people with disabilities have options readily available in regards to viewing the content of your website.

5. The Consumer Contracts Regulations

This applies to all purchases made online or over the phone.

The seller is responsible for making readable information available in regards to the goods and services offered.

For example; description of the goods or service, delivery costs, returns, refunds, the price of the goods or service and information about the seller.

6. SSL Certificate

If you have an e-commerce website that is taking payments online you must take extra precautions to protect your customers details.

Installing an SSL certificate will encrypt connections between your web server and the users browser while they are making payments. An SSL certificate is recognised as the green bar with a lock on the browser.

7. Terms & Conditions:

T&C’s are set of rules and regulations which protect you and your users. This should include any necessary information and guidelines in order to have a mutual understanding.

Chances are that no one will ever read your T&Cs, but they are necessary to protect your business just in case an issue arises. There are a wide range of T&C generators out there, or you can hire a lawyer to create one for you.

8. Anti-Spam Laws

These laws are put into place to protect users from any unwanted emails. Each country has their own anti-spam laws so it’s a good idea to check what applies in your country.

Any emails that you have on your database should must have ‘opted in’ to receive emails from you. Include clear and accurate information about your business, including who it is from and how you can be contacted. You must also include an unsubscribe link to allow recipients to ‘opt-out’ from receiving your emails.

If you do not implement these features, there is a chance that your email marketing platform such as MailChimp, Mailer Lite, Aweber will shut down your account.

Final Thoughts

In order for visitors to trust your website it is important that you are aware of your legal obligations and follow respective laws.

By the right guidance and advice of your web developer your business should be compliant with the relevant rules. Not only does it shows that your online business follow the best practices, this will also avoid you from being fined or even prosecuted.

*Disclaimer: This article should only be used as a guide, as laws are liable to change and may differ between countries.

Helpful Resources:

Online Dispute Resolution

European Legislation on Cookies

The Disability Discrimination Act & Web Accessibility 

Consumer Contracts

Directive 2002/58/EC (Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications)