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Is your Website Legal?

I am pretty certain that if you are a business owner you will have a website. Social Media is fast becoming a powerful business tool with small businesses all over the country using this as their main method of marketing, however it is still important to have a website for your business. Every business owner will want their website to be attractive, appealing and engaging but most importantly you should make it legal! With the focus being placed on getting customers to browse through your website and to then hopefully place an order, sign up to your newsletter or complete an enquiry form, often it seems businesses overlook the legal requirements for websites.

Is your website legal?

This week I have worked for a client updating their current privacy policy in line with the fast approaching GDPR, making sure the content of their privacy policy is easily understandable, clear and legally compliant. It took some work but at least this business had one! Whilst networking I have come across a number of websites that do not even have any kind of privacy policy on their website. Which got me thinking. How do we make our websites legal?

Simple steps to make your website legal:

  • Company Information – I would hope that every website would have this information clearly stated. For a registered company, the website needs to display the business name, place of registration, registration number and its registered office address. A valid contact email address should also be clearly displayed; a contact form alone is not good enough. Got that? Great…. Good start!
  • Privacy Policy – A Privacy policy MUST be displayed on your website if data is being processed and it must inform the user what the data is being used for. This is essential to be compliant with the Data Protection Act 1998. So, to put it simply… if you have a contact form on your website where users can ask your questions or sign up to your mailing lists you need a Privacy Policy. If you have an online shop you need a Privacy Policy (and T&C’s). If you have cookies on your website and collect analytics about your website traffic you need a Privacy Policy. If in doubt… you need a Privacy Policy! The Privacy Policy should be accessible on every page so it is a good idea to place a link in the footer of your website along with your Terms & Conditions and ‘Contact Us’ link.
  • Cookie Laws- there are laws on making sure your users know about your cookie use, it is sufficient to set out within the Privacy Policy if and how your business uses cookies on the website but make sure it is in there.
  • EU Anti-Spam Laws- This law dictates that users of your website must give express permission to be sent marketing emails. If people have signed up to your mailing list on your website, or have checked a box to say, ‘I would like to receive newsletters’ (or something more quirky) then great news that counts as permission! GDPR however has gone one step further and by May of next year however this box must NOT be pre-ticked. Once you have the permission to email your lovely marketing, this law requires you to provide a link or instructions on how to unsubscribe from your newsletter emails in EVERY email!

 So, once you have all the above sorted, congratulations you are legal! There are, however, some other points worth considering when making your website legal, a copyright notice for example. This will act as a deterrent to stop user from stealing your content!! Do not leave it open to be copied.

Do you have an online shop?

 If you are selling products and or services on your website then this throws some more legal issues at you. You must clearly display a link to your terms and conditions of purchase, your delivery options, and returns/refunds/exchange policy. If you are selling to consumers then this is even more important, not only does it protect your customers, it also protects you. By not having any Terms & Conditions in place you are breaking the law and legally leaving you very exposed. If you are taking payments then this has even more legal implications.

Consequences of not being legal

Failure to comply with the above can result in fines being received. The Information Commissioner’s Office and local Trading Standards offices can bring action against your business and so can the website user if the individual can demonstrate a loss as a result of your website failing to comply. The ICO will be hotter than ever once the GDPR is in place, don’t leave yourself open, make sure you’re legal!

And lastly,

Don’t copy and paste from other websites, not only is this copyright infringement, you run the risk of copying content that is not legally compliant or basically copying complete rubbish. It certainly won’t be bespoke to your business and should you see yourself involved in a legal dispute you may not be able to rely on it in court.

 

BEB Consultancy (UK) Ltd | Office 3, St Luke’s Centre, Main Road, Duston, Northampton, NN5 6JB | T 01604 217365
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Beverley Brazier is a Graduate member of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives
Hazel Napier is an Associate member of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives
BEB Consultancy (UK) Ltd is a company registered in England and Wales.
Registered number: 06663021. Registered office: 86 Weggs Farm Road, Northampton, NN5 6HZ. VAT number: 936 2228 25
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