Ecommerce refresher for retailers trading online in the UK

Ecommerce is a fast-moving medium for retailers and, whether you have an established online presence or are just starting out, a periodic review of changes in the law and trading regulations can help ensure your business runs smoothly.

‘There are numerous rules and regulations which an online retailer needs to comply with, and we are seeing new rules introduced with increasing frequency’, comments Danielle Austin, a Solicitor in the Corporate and Commercial team at Geoffrey Leaver Solicitors. ‘Ecommerce has seen a huge uplift in the past year. So, it is a good idea to keep yourself abreast of legislative changes and ensure they are adequately reflected in your documents and processes.’

General considerations

Each online store is set up differently and targets different audiences, but for the purposes of trading within England and Wales, here are some examples of key areas which you should ensure are up to date:

  • Legitimate entity – this may sound basic, but it is both a legal requirement and commercially sensible to ensure your store provides clarity about who customers are buying from. This is especially important to protect against counterfeit brands and fraud. Check your business name, registered office and contact details are up to date and appear on the online store. Updating your details will also be necessary if your legal status has changed, for example from sole trader status to a limited company.
  • The Consumer (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 – As a distance seller, there is a statutory list of information you must provide to your consumers, such as a detailed and accurate description of your products, and clear and transparent pricing including delivery charges. It may be tempting to make up your own cancellation policy, but consumers have statutory rights which include a right to cancel within a certain period and there are rules around how to return faulty goods, request replacements and returning cancelled goods. Your returns policies need to comply with the law, and you need to ensure that you are able to handle the processes operationally. For example, if you use a logistics firm for your order fulfillment, they also need to be aware of how to handle returns or order cancellations.
  • Data protection – As it currently stands, under a temporary agreement with the EU on transfer of data between the EU and the UK, there are no immediate changes to GDPR and data protection laws. Your website should be compliant with cookie laws and have an up-to-date privacy policy which is easily accessible to your customers to read and agree to.
  • Third party functionality and compliance – If you are using a third-party payment processor, then most likely they will have installed plugins to promote compliance with the Payment Card Security Standards. Similarly, if you are using cloud-based software for the storage of personal data or tracking plugins and pixels from social media sites, they should also comply with privacy and GDPR policies. That said, it is always advisable to request these, review them and seek advice from your solicitor so you can understand the risks. Remember that the customer is buying the products from you, not your third-party provider, so they may hold you accountable for any failings in your service supply chain.
  • Content check – As you build your site or add new products or even geographic locations, it is worthwhile reviewing and checking your content. Can you still justify the claims you make about your products? Do you still have permission to use all the images on your website? Some image licences only last for a fixed period.

Protecting your brand

The nature of online business is that you are always open to reputational risk if your ideas are copied, or your brand is somehow brought into disrepute.

Copying terms and conditions, website content and policies from competitor businesses is the sort of practice that can land you in trouble. Your website terms of use policy should make it clear that content cannot be reproduced or downloaded. This would be the first step in protecting your brand from website plagiarism.

There is also merit in registering your business name, logo or product designs to ensure protection for your intellectual property.

How we can help

Our commercial team can assist you in ensuring you have considered, addressed and implemented all the required legal, compliance and practical steps for your ecommerce business.

For an informal discussion, please contact Danielle Austin in the Corporate and Commercial team on 01908 689399 or email daustin@geoffreyleaver.com.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.

 

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Danielle Austin, Solicitor

Danielle Austin | Solicitor