Factsheet: Legal requirements when selling online

1. Your company information

You must provide information about yourself on your website. For example: your company name, address, registration number, any trade or professional association memberships and your company VAT number.

2. Contractual information

A company selling on the net must tell its customers at what point the sale is concluded and whether a copy of the contract will be available for the customer to check back on. Typically, a company selling on the net will include this information in its terms and conditions.

3. Right to cancel

The ‘Distance Selling Regulations’ apply to most businesses that are selling on the net and give the customer the right to cancel the contract (usually within the first 7 days). Also, the business must make the customer aware of their right to cancel.

4. Terms and conditions

Any business that is selling on the net would be foolish not to have a robust set of terms and conditions. To be binding the terms and conditions must be shown to the customer before he or she places an order.

5. Email marketing

Email marketing regulations prohibit you from sending unsolicited marketing emails unless the recipients have ‘opted in’ to receiving them. By law, you must make it easy for them to ‘opt out’ of the emails should they change their mind.

6. Pricing mistakes

Some very big companies (Argos) have been forced to sell their products at the incorrect price (for example, a £299 TV that was advertised and had to be sold at £2.99) because their website terms and conditions were poorly designed. To avoid this, your website should make sure the contract is only formed when it is approved by you and not when the order is submitted by the customer.

7. Data protection

If you collect personal information about your customers while selling on the net (for example, when your customers make a purchase or as part of an online registration process) then you need to comply with the requirements of Data Protection Law, and register with the Information Commissioner’s Office.