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Selling on the net

The following information is for guidance only. For further information, please contact your local Trading Standards Service. 

 

This leaflet highlights key additional legal controls which apply when selling online and provides a checklist for businesses within the United Kingdom designing web pages which promote the sale of goods and services to consumers on the Internet.

Existing consumer protection law, including that on the sale of goods and misleading advertising, applies online.

 

Additional pieces of legislation more specific to Internet trading are The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 (as amended) and the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002. Failure to comply with these Regulations can, in certain circumstances, lead to a claim for damages, or the online contract may be invalidated.

 

Where the breach affects the collective interest of consumers, a business may also be subject to an enforcement order by a Trading Standards Service or other regulator. Using the Enterprise Act, they can apply to the Courts for an interdict against any business found not complying with the Regulations. If breaches continue to occur, the individuals or company concerned could be held to be in contempt of Court and face an unlimited fine or imprisonment.

 

Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 (as amended)

 

Key features of the Regulations:

*         The consumer must be given clear information about the goods or services offered.

*         After making a purchase, the consumer must be sent confirmation.

*         The consumer has the right to cancel within seven working days for most goods and services. This period runs from the day the contract was concluded for services, and from the day after the day of delivery for goods. For services, the supplier must provide the consumer with information as to how the right to cancel may be affected if the consumer agrees to performance beginning less than seven working days after the contract was concluded. This information must be provided prior to or in good time during the performance of the contract.

By complying with the Regulations, and providing the following information in a clear and comprehensible manner, not only are you encouraging the confidence of consumers, you are enhancing the quality of their online shopping experience!

 

Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002

 

These Regulations came into force on 21st August 2002. They stipulate further information that must be included on a website. 

The following checklist includes items that are required by other legislation, as well as those which will aid compliance with the above Regulations:

 

Website checklist

*         Full company details – name, a UK geographic address and an e-mail address.

*         Full terms and conditions which are readily accessible, fair and meaningful.

*         A description of the goods or services being sold.

*         Pricing information, fully inclusive of any delivery charges, taxes, excise duty, etc.

*         Information about how long the offer or price applies

*         Details of stages involved in the ordering process, including any costs involved in distance communication if the cost is at anything other than a standard rate.

*         The different technical steps to follow to conclude a contract, so that consumers are made aware of what the process will involve and the point at which they will commit themselves.

*         Information about the availability, delivery and dispatch of goods.

*         Information about substitutes in the event that goods or services are not available, including telling the consumer that the cost of returning unsatisfactory substitute goods will be refunded.

*         Clear complaints procedure and policy on returning goods.

*         Information about withdrawal/cancellation rights.

*         A statement that the UK law is the applicable law***.

*         A statement indicating that, when buying goods and services on the Internet, the consumer is entering a legally binding contract.

*         The technical means for identifying and correcting input errors prior to the placing of the order.

*         A data protection statement.*

*         A privacy policy and information about security issues.*

*         A cookie (unique identifier) policy.*

*         An opt-in box for unsolicited e-mail.*

*         Details of any Registration Scheme to which you belong (e.g. Corgi) and your registration number, or other means of identification in that register.

*         Details of certain professional bodies you are registered with, your professional title and applicable rules (e.g. chartered surveyor and RICS).

*         Details of any Code of Practice to which you subscribe.

*         VAT number (if appropriate).

*These provisions are by virtue of Data Protection legislation and the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 both enforced by the Information Commissioner. Detailed advice on these provisions can be found on the Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner website (OSIC)

 

***Regulation 4(4) of the E Commerce Regulations allows businesses the freedom to choose the applicable law and is also intended to aid non UK consumers. A UK-based business, even if trading via the Internet outside the UK, still has to comply with UK requirements. This does not preclude action being taken against a trader for breaches of legislation outside the UK.

It is also strongly recommended, where relevant, that retail sites incorporate a system to prevent sales of age restricted products such as alcohol, spray paints and videos to persons under the required age.

 

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