Check If Your Website Complies With The Law

Does your website show all the information that is needed to comply with the law?

Our free Site Checker can give you the answer with a click of a button:  fill in the website URL and an email address, and you will receive a report with an assessment of your compliance. You can also check out other websites.  The Site Checker is available via our homepage and this link.

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In recent years, a lot of new legislation has been introduced, both in the UK and the rest of Europe.  Much of this is designed to protect consumers when buying goods or services online.  But every trading company has to provide details of its company registration, address etc., and it is surprising that even some larger companies do not always fully comply.   Nor do the fraudsters.  Our Site Checker does not cover everything but it does deal with the basics for any company that is trading online.

For more information, we have articles on this blog dealing with the regulations in more detail:

Brexit for Business – How to Adjust Your Commercial Contracts and Agreements

Solicitor and ContractStore founder Giles Dixon has some useful pointers for updating your commercial contracts in the light of the UK Brexit vote.

brexit photoOn the Monday after the Referendum vote, I was asked to draft my first Brexit clause for a substantial long term services contract between a European and UK company that was being negotiated. So, although we have not yet left the EU, the potential legal implications of our likely withdrawal are already being felt.

As we do not know what agreement might be reached with the EU it is difficult to be too specific on how business and society will be affected.

But for starters, here are some possible issues that clients may want to consider when reviewing or negotiating their contracts:

  • Customs duties and tariffs: If these are introduced on trade between the UK and other EU countries, be sure to have some wording that says how they will affect the payment terms under the contract.
  • Personnel: If your contract involves sending a team of engineers to the UK from Europe (or vice versa), what happens if new visa requirements are introduced that make this difficult to achieve? And if you already employ citizens from other EU states, how might their status be affected if there is a change in immigration law?
  • Currency: Any contract involving pricing that has a currency risk should consider wording to deal with that risk. But if the impact of Brexit sees a continuing fall in the value of sterling (already down by around 10% against the USD), an escape clause or renegotiation provision could be essential.
  • Standards: If EU quality standards diverge from those in the UK, how might this affect manufactured products or the supply of services and whose standards will apply under your contract?
  • Trade Marks: Anyone who has registered an EU trade mark has protection throughout the 28 member states. If we leave, will that EU mark still give protection in the UK?

A material adverse circumstances clause can be a helpful device to deal with issues that might arise in future but are not identified when the contract is signed. But the difficulty with such a clause is in specifying what happens if a particular event occurs. An obligation to discuss and try to resolve the problem by good faith negotiation is the type of wording sometimes used, but it does not remove the uncertainty. So, where you can, you need to have wording that says what will happen if a situation arises – e.g. if new taxes are introduced on the supply of goods to Europe, these will be added to the price and payable by the customer.

Brexit – The Legal (Constitutional) Position

On 23 June 51.9% of those who took part in the Referendum voted that they wish to leave the EU.  Approximately 72% of the electorate voted – in other words 37% of the adult population of the UK said they want to leave the EU and only those in England and Wales had a majority in favour of leaving. Interestingly, the percentage wanting to remain in Scotland and Northern Ireland was higher than that for leaving in England & Wales (and in Gibraltar the remain vote was 95%).

The Referendum Act does not say clearly what happens next.

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty says that any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union ‘in accordance with its own constitutional requirements’. It then has to give notice of its intention to withdraw to the European Council.

Brexit and the LawAs the UK does not have a written constitution, and Parliament is where our decisions are made, it is for Parliament to decide whether and when to give that notice to the EU.

However, some think the Government can give the notice without the need for a vote of the House of Commons. Since the referendum result does not itself have the force of law and this is perhaps the biggest decision the UK has to make, it would be strange for the Government of the day (especially a different Government from the one that took office at the last General Election) to make the decision without the approval of Parliament.

This issue is likely to be decided by the courts, as legal steps are already being taken to ensure the UK Government will not trigger the procedure for withdrawal from the EU without an Act of Parliament.

Article 50 then says that, once the notice is given, the EU will ‘negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union’. The UK will then withdraw from the EU on the date the withdrawal agreement comes into effect or, failing that, two years after the notification, unless an extension of that two year period is agreed. The agreement needs to be approved on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

Until the withdrawal is final, the UK remains a member of the EU and bound by its laws, but not able to take part in discussions on its withdrawal.

What You Need to Know About Selling Online

Retail online is continuing to increase: with low setup costs and the potential to reach niche and mass markets worldwide it’s an attractive proposition. But if you are selling online there are some important rules you need to know about to protect your business – and your customers.

Your terms and conditions of sale must be displayed on your website where the goods are being sold and they must comply with the various regulations that apply.

The key features of the ‘Distance Selling’ regulations in the UK are:

  • you must give consumers clear information including:
    • details of the goods or services offered
    • delivery arrangements and payment
    • seller details including geographical address
    • the consumer’s cancellation right before they buy (known as prior information)
  • you must also provide this information in writing
  •  goods must be delivered within 30 days unless agreed otherwise
  • the consumer has a cooling-off period of seven working days. The cooling off period begins as soon as the order has been made. In the case of goods, it ends seven working days after the day of receipt of the goods. In the case of services, it ends seven working days after the day the order was made but if the consumer agrees to the service beginning within the seven days, the right to cancel ends when the service starts
  • where consumers notify the supplier in writing or another durable medium that they wish to cancel the contract, they must be refunded all money paid within 30 days.

So your Terms and Conditions need to cover all these points and useful clauses can also include:

  • Price – the price of goods must be shown clearly to the customer and make it clear whether VAT is included. If packing and postage is extra, this also needs to be shown.
  • Payment – it is usual to make it clear that payment must be made in full before the goods are dispatched. Sometimes a credit card transaction comes with a warning for the merchant that there is a doubt about the validity of the buyer, so you can do further checks before sending the goods if there is a potential problem
  • Force Majeure – If you are unable to deliver due to some unforeseeable event such as a fire at the warehouse or a hurricane, you can reserve the right to cancel or suspend the contract
  • Warranties – you have a legal obligation to deliver goods that meet the description on your website and are of satisfactory quality so why not say this in your T&Cs as it can give the customers some comfort.

In addition, a customer who wishes to purchase goods online, using a credit card or some other payment method, should be required to confirm that he/she has read the terms and conditions and accepted them before proceeding to the checkout. In order to have evidence that the customer is aware of the terms on which goods are sold, the usual system is to have a ‘tick box’ which must be ticked by the customer confirming that the terms and conditions have been read before the sale process can be concluded.

For more information on legislation and regulations governing the sale of goods and services and consumer protection, there are various Government and other websites that provide useful information including DirectGov – http://www.direct.gov.uk – and the Office of Fair Trading – http://www.oft.gov.uk/. There is also useful guidance in more detail at http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/distance-selling-regulations/

ContractStore has created some ready-made documents for online retailers: