Online business regulations

Businesses engaging in e-commerce are required to provide certain details on their websites in accordance with the Electronic Commerce Regulations. They should also be aware of their duties under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013.

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The Electronic Commerce Regulations

Businesses which advertise their goods or services online must provide the following information on their websites to comply with the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002

full company details: 

  • name
  • geographical address (a PO Box address is not acceptable) 
  • email
  • company registration number 
  • registered address
  • details of any registration or authorisation schemes to which you belong
  • details of any professional bodies or trade organisations to which you belong
  • VAT number (if applicable)

Businesses which are actually conducting e-commerce must, additionally, provide the following:

  • terms and conditions that are readily accessible, fair and meaningful
  • any relevant codes of practice/conduct and how they can be accessed
  • technical means by which any input errors can be corrected
  • an outline of the technical steps to follow to conclude a contract
  • an indication of languages offered in which a contract can be concluded
  • whether a record of the contract is kept by the seller and if this is accessible to the buyer.

Furthermore, any commercial communications must clearly: be identifiable as commercial communications; provide the terms of any promotional offers; identify on whose behalf the communication is being sent. 

The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 

Since 13 June 2014, businesses which are selling online to consumers have had to provide more information than they were previously required to do, in order to comply with the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges ) Regulations 2013 (which replaced the old Distance Selling Regulations). There are also for the first time, specific provisions for digital content. The information that must be provided includes:

  • details about your business
  • goods and/or services which are being sold and pricing
  • payment and delivery arrangements
  • the right of the consumer to cancel their contract within a specified time
  • if applicable, details of the trader’s complaints handling policy
  • where applicable, any compatibility of digital content with hardware or software 

Customers have the right to cancel their contract within 14 calendar days - this is commonly referred to as a 'cooling off period'. This applies even if services have commenced in the cooling off period. Cancellation must be in a prescribed form. There is an exception for digital content if the customer acknowledges the loss of the right to cancel.

If a contract is cancelled, the consumer should receive a refund within 30 days.

Goods or services must be provided within 30 days following an order (unless otherwise agreed).

Telephone helpline charges must be no more than the basic rate and any additional payments over the agreed contract price (eg, surcharges for credit cards) must be expressly agreed to by the customer at the time the contract is made or they cannot be levied.

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