During the last couple of years, what with the Covid outbreak, we have seen the public being pushed into an ever-deeper reliance on the worldwide web. Our need to internet browse for almost anything from a loaf of bread to a new wardrobe has created more opportunities for web designers, and developers as businesses have adapted and turned towards a more digital offering. Having an online presence for companies often became essential. As a result, online sales offerings, which started out as a necessity to try and survive lockdown, have now become the norm for pretty much every new and current business owner interested in selling beyond
their immediate locale. Here at MWB we have seen how companies have rapidly changed their marketing strategies to adapt to the new normal.

With the explosive growth in online businesses, website creation and design companies have proliferated.
It has become very easy to create a website platform. Some website agencies charge subscription fees of under £10 a month, and now for more adventurous business owners there are numerous step-by-step guides being advertised, allowing individuals to save with a “do-it-yourself” approach.

Regrettably what is often overlooked in the rush to gain an online presence is the legal obligations and restrictions which apply to websites.

Under the Companies Act 2006, information relating to the identity of the business whose site it is must be displayed somewhere on the site. This includes:

• Company name
• Company registered number 
• Registered office address 
• Place of registration 
• Company contact details and email address
• Information on how to contact the relevant business through non electronic means 
• The name of any trade bodies or professional associations that the business is part of, including membership or registration details 

There is also a requirement that the site be accessible. Accessibility is a legal requirement under the Equality Act 2010. It is unlawful to have a website that does not meet certain design standards for disabled users. Too many websites fail to satisfy the legal requirements. Overlooking this could lead to a discrimination claim or form the basis of a complaint during any dispute over purchases.

Other important factors often over-looked are the various protections offered to online consumers. Examples being, under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and Consumer Contracts Regulations, if you are selling goods or services online to consumers, then you must include:

• A description of your goods or services and the price
• Details on how to pay
• Delivery information
• Cancellation information
• Contract information
• Details on rights to cancel

The laws regulating website content and design are ever-evolving. Enforce-ment has thus far been sporadic but expect it to increase in priority for the government as we see more and more businesses operating digitally. Failure to comply not only can damage your reputation but can also lead to fines from a number of regulators. 

As the online world grows in trading importance you can avoid an own goal by being aware of your legal obligations when designing and populating your website. For free access to our legal guides on this and other legal topics that affect your business visit our website.

Sarah Gopaul


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