Do you know the full website compliance laws, including the 2002 UK eCommerce Regulations?
If you're anything like the vast majority of businesses, then the answer is probably "not as well as I should".
Yet, thousands of websites are putting themselves at risk of litigation in ways that are very easy to rectify. Instead of wading through mountains of paperwork and guidelines, here are five quick areas where your business website could be falling short of the law.
1) Do you provide enough information about your company?
Contact and business details aren't just an extra courtesy to your customer. It's a legal requirement to make your business information available, whether selling products directly online or not, including:
- Company name (and trading name if different)
- Registered office address and company registration number
- An email contact (not just a contact form)
- VAT registration number
2) What's your personal data policy?
It's so easy to capture personal data online (from emails to full addresses through registration forms) that many businesses forget that use of that data is governed by strict legislation.
You might want to check the details of the 1998 UK Data Protection Act to find out more about what constitutes fair use and how you can go about requesting data.
However, in general make sure that you have adequate terms and conditions, as well as options for users to choose how you use their information (i.e. whether it will be shared with partner organisations etc.). Make sure your users can find a clear site policy about personal data.
3) Are your prices easy to understand?
If you sell products online then it's essential to make it clear what your prices are, whether they include tax and what associated delivery costs are.
Leaving the delivery charge until payment has been processed, or adding VAT at the last moment isn't just bad practice for building trust with your customers - it's against the law.
4) Is your site accessible for disabled users?
Though this is a vast topic by itself, the key aspect about website design accessibility is that you have to show that you have made sufficient efforts to accommodate all users. In general this means coding your site to work with screen reader software for the blind, as well as avoiding unnecessary navigation issues that could prevent people with physical disabilities using your site.
A good place to start is to check your code in the W3C online validator. This ensures that your site is at least following web standards. You can find out more about web standards and accessibility at www.w3c.com.
5) Are you using direct marketing tactics?
When websites request a user's email address, it's usually with a view to sending future emails with news and special offers. However, it's worth remembering that your digital campaigns are subject to the same laws as other forms of direct marketing (such as leaflets or phone calls).
This ranges from offering easy opt-outs from future emails, to avoiding misleading sales tactics. You can find a good range of legal guides and resources at the Direct Marketing Association.
Ultimately, following all of these points (and more) can help protect your company. And of course, the more you comply with usability and accessibility guidelines, the better the online experience for your customers.
So, in that way, complying with the law could mean converting more sales.