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Web design & build: best practice

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Is your business website legal?

If you are a UK-registered business, it is essential for you to disclose certain information about your company on your website. It is a legal requirement, meaning serious implications if you fail to comply, such as fines, legal action (which could be taken by the regulators, customers, or consumer protection bodies), and also damage to your reputation, which could severely affect your business.

What you need:

The registered information relating to the identity of your business must be displayed. This includes:

  • company name
  • registered number
  • place of registration
  • registered office address
  • the VAT number of business, if applicable
  • contact details, including an email address
  • details of any trade body or regulator registration
  • details of how to contact the business by non-electronic means

If you are a partnership or a sole trader, you need to display the address for the primary place of your business; and even if your company is being wound up – this information must be displayed on your website.

However, this doesn’t have to be on every page – just not hidden away, to make sure it is accessible. Typically, you can find this information on a ‘contact us’ page or within the footer section (the very bottom) of each page.

Privacy information:

Along with the company registration information above, it is also necessary for you to publish the following on your website:

  • Privacy Notice – this explains what personal data is being collected and how you will use it
  • Cookie Policy/Disclosure – this explains how and why cookies are stored on the site
  • A Disclaimer – this highlights any liability for the use of the website and its information
  • Refund Policy (if you are using your website for e-commerce)

Cookie information & consent:

Cookies are always stored on websites, but not all of them are essential. Privacy laws dictate that you must inform users of the cookies set on your website – unless these are essential to provide a service (for example, remembering the items in a basket or to enable secure checkouts and security in e-commerce shops or for online banking).

The cookie policy needs to explain very clearly what each of the cookies does and why, but also (apart from exemptions) it is necessary that you seek consent from the users by giving them the option to accept or refuse the placement of cookies on their device or browser. This is easy to do and is commonly done on a website using a pop-up, banners, message bars or splash pages.

Your cookie policy will often be a standalone page, like the Privacy Notice, or can be included within the Privacy Notice as its own section. Examples of these can be found online but legal advice should be sought to ensure your website policies conform with regulations.

Selling to consumers:

Lastly, and further to the documents outlined above, if you are selling products to customers through your website, you will need the following documents as well:

  • Terms and conditions
  • Delivery and returns policy

Most payment gateway providers (which will be required on your site to take payments) will have their own guidelines and requirements for what they need your website to include before you can use their gateway. In the first instance it is best to check with your provider to ensure you meet their requirements. These documents form part of the consumer protection regulations.

Furthermore, you have a legal obligation as the website operator to address any web accessibility issues on your website. If you are unsure of what these are, or how to address them, your website provider will be able to investigate and inform you on how best to ensure your website is prepared for accessibility requirements and implement any necessary measures.

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