Monday 26 October 2009

Online business offline with legal issues

Research carried out by legal firm Higgs & Sons has uncovered some shocking figures about the failings of some online companies to comply with legal issues.

Amy Shakespeare, a solicitor for Higgs & Sons said: “We undertook some research as part of an online seminar held in Wolverhampton and reviewed all attendees’ websites. Less than half of the websites we reviewed contained all of the statutory information required, only 38% of companies had privacy policies displayed on their site and only 46% had notified the Information Commissioners Office that they process personal information under the Data Protection Act.”

An EU investigation found similar results after examining 369 websites selling electronic equipment in 28 European countries and found that 55% of them appeared to break consumer protection laws. It found that the biggest failure was related to consumers’ right to return goods purchased over the internet within a seven day ‘cooling off period’.

It is estimated that by 2011, 32 million UK consumers will be shopping online and the value of goods will be £52 billion (Forrester, UK eCommerce forecast 2006-2011). With theses figures in mind, Amy stresses the importance for businesses with an online presence to be even more aware of the laws that apply when trading on the internet.

She said: “Online businesses must comply with national implementations of the EU’s directives including the Distance Selling Directive, Unfair Commercial Practices Directive and E-Commerce Directive. In particular websites should display a certain level of information about the company, clear information about the product and price and consumers rights. Being compliant however need not cost a fortune, for example a privacy policy can be drafted relatively cost effectively and will assist a website owner in complying with the information requirements in the Data Protection Act, Companies Act and in some cases Distance Selling legislation. In comparison, the consequences for online traders with non-compliant websites can be severe. Both civil and criminal penalties can be imposed on individuals as well as the company.”

For a legal review of your website, please call Amy Shakespeare at Higgs & Sons on 01384 342 100.

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