Did you know that under English law you must display certain information about your business on your website?
This document can help your business comply with the Companies Act 2006 and Electronic Commerce Regulations (EC Directive) 2002 and the EU Regulations relating to Alternative Dispute Resolution.
You need this document if your business uses the internet or email to communicate with colleagues or clients, and you want a clear, straightforward website and email policy.
This document contains templates for information that is usually found on websites. Some of this information is required by law. The disclaimer notice and statements concerning copyright and third party links are ‘optional extras’: they may not be necessary but notices of this type are often found, in a variety of forms.
To comply with the Companies Act 2006, every company (or limited liability partnership) in the UK must clearly state:
- the company registration number
- place of registration,
- registered office address
- and, if the company is being wound up, that fact, on all of their websites.
A common place to put this information is in the “About us” Section. It does not have to appear on every page.
This rule also applies to any emails sent by a company so the same information should appear in the footer to each email.
To comply with the general information requirements of the Electronic Commerce Regulations (EC Directive) 2002 you must give recipients of your online services:
- your business name, geographic address and other contact details including your email address
- details of any publicly available register in which you are entered, together with your registration number or equivalent
- the particulars of the supervisory body if the service is subject to an authorisation scheme
- details of any professional body with which you are registered
- your VAT registration number
If your website refers to prices, these must be clear and indicate whether they include tax and delivery costs.
If you are selling online you also have to comply with the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Payments) Regulations 2013. These are not covered in this document but see our Terms & Conditions for Sale of Goods Online- Document A179 and our free guidance note, Z171.
If you provide services, either on their own, or as well as goods, you also have to comply with the Provision of Services Regulations 2009 which are in effect in a similar form throughout the EU. These Regulations oblige you to provide a lot of information to clients and potential clients including having a complaints procedure and making available your terms of business and insurance details.
Although it is common practice to include a disclaimer on a website, arguably it is not necessary and its legal effectiveness is open to question. If you want to have a disclaimer notice, then keep it short unless there is some reason to have several paragraphs of text. A website, for most online companies, is equivalent to a shop window and you would not expect to see a disclaimer notice when you go into a shop. If, however, you are providing information that might be relied on, such as legal information, then it does no harm to tell the visitors that they use it at their own risk.
Under English law the author of a document or drawing owns the copyright and, in the absence of an agreement to the contrary, no-one else has the right to make use of it. In some countries it is necessary to assert ownership of the copyright and, on the web, it is therefore sensible to make it clear that you own the copyright to the words and pictures on your website. Having said that, one purpose of a website is to allow visitors to read and copy or forward to other people information from your website. So it can be counter-productive to state, as some websites do, that nothing may be copied or used without consent, as this would, if obeyed, prevent a visitor from noting down your phone number.
Our wording tries to achieve a balance by allowing copying for personal use or for information, but prohibiting it for commercial use.
LINKS TO THIRD PARTY WEBSITES
Here again a notice is probably unnecessary under English law but it does no harm to disclaim any responsibility or liability for any third party website to which you have created a link.
LINKS TO THIS WEBSITE
It is usually in the interests of a website owner to allow links to it, since this can improve its position on the search engines. The main point here is to give notice that you may want to have the link removed – e.g. if an unacceptable site created a link to your website – and to avoid use of your trademark or logo without consent.
Our wording is only a suggested introductory sentence and we have not developed a detailed cookie statement as this will to some extent depend on the type of cookies that you use. Our wording asks for consent (for which you will need to develop a link) and it also says that consent is assumed if the visitor continues to browse the site. In any event you will need to give information on the type of cookies you use and, here, you might like to use the ICO’s example as a basis for developing your own statement. This is as follows:
“Our website uses four cookies. A cookie is a small file of letters and numbers that we put on your computer if you agree. These cookies allow us to distinguish you from other users of the website which helps us to provide you with a good experience when you browse our website and also allows us to improve our site.
The cookies we use are ‘analytical’ cookies. They allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors and to see how visitors move around the site when they’re using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works, for example by making sure users are finding what they need easily. Read more about the individual analytical cookies we use and how to recognise them [link]”
The ICO Guide also says that this is what the law (Regulation 6 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003) requires:
a person shall not store or gain access to information stored, in the terminal equipment of a subscriber or user unless the requirements of paragraph (2) are met.
(2) The requirements are that the subscriber or user of that terminal equipment-
(a) is provided with clear and comprehensive information about the purposes of the storage of, or access to, that information; and
(b) has given his or her consent.
If you run a business and process data – which can involve no more than collecting the name and email address of visitors to your website – you may also have a legal duty to register as a ‘Data Controller’ with the Information Commissioner, the Government official who administers the Data Protection Act. To find out more, there is a lot of helpful guidance on the Information Commissioner’s website:
There is no necessity for an introduction but it helps to identify your business and, if you use it, you should fill in the blanks appropriately.
Here you should adapt the wording as necessary to explain what information you are collecting. If, for example, you do not sell anything from your website, then our paragraph about credit card payments should be omitted. If you collect and handle sensitive information about your visitors, then our wording is not appropriate and needs to be strengthened.
This explains what you will do with the information. The paragraph also picks up on one of the duties of a Data Controller, namely to take precautions to keep data secure.
Here again, try to set out what you will do with the information that you collect (within the limits laid down by the Data Protection Act) and alter our wording as appropriate to meet your own objectives.
CHANGES TO THIS POLICY
This is a reminder for you as well as your visitors – if you change your policy you should inform the people whose data you hold and get their consent.
You are required to keep up to date all information that you hold – and this paragraph explains how visitors can contact you.
If you send out newsletters or maintain regular (or irregular) contact with the individuals whose information you hold, you should make it clear in all your communications that they are entitled to have their details removed from your list. And do remember that it is in your interests to have a procedure to do this – quite apart from the legal implications, there is nothing more irritating for someone than to keep receiving material from an organization that is of no interest after he/she has asked to be removed from the mailing list.
E-MAIL LEGAL NOTICE
As mentioned above, there are legal requirements for companies in the UK which now include putting on each email sent by a company, its full name, registered office address, and company number. VAT number is also recommended.
It is also common practice to insert a Disclaimer, designed to deal with the possibility that an email is received by someone other than the intended recipient. Our wording is quite brief, but should suffice for most people.
Finally please note:
You might also consider joining our affiliate scheme when you can earn commission on sales made via your website. For more information go to this link: Become an Affiliate.
2. We recommend that you obtain legal advice before using our templates.
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