This is the second installment of a two-part series on the legal considerations to make when building a website for your brand, especially a transactional one. Here I look at the terms and conditions for websites, social media and e-commerce, as well as mobile content and VAT.
The terms and conditions of your website are effectively the contract you hold with the visitors to your site. In this way, the terms and conditions are extremely important. Many people use generic website terms and conditions and therefore miss crucial aspects of their business model within the terms. You need to tailor your relationship with your visitors depending on the specific circumstances.
Amongst other things, you should consider the following:
1. A statement that all rights in the site belong to you, for example your copyright and trademarks.
2. A restriction on what visitors can do on your site – for example a restriction on them engaging on illegal activity.
3. A disclaimer regarding the performance of your site. You don’t want people to be able to claim you have liability if your website has technical problems.
5. Where your website has a login there should be an obligation on visitors not to pass their login details on to anyone else.
6. Information about your business, for example your contact details.
You should also structure your terms and conditions to suit your payment and stocking processes. For example, most websites state that a customer merely places an ‘offer’ to a website when they order. This means that the website is not contractually bound to honour that offer. This is particularly important when your stock levels need to be verified before completing an order.
You will need to comply with a number of pieces of legislation when selling products or services online. New legislation, in the form of the Consumer Rights Bill, will soon come in which will replace some of the existing laws around distance selling. The Consumer Rights Bill requires businesses to provide certain pre-contract information and clearly label any obligation to pay before a payment. It also gives consumers rights for a refund 14 days after returning any goods. Note that it also imposes obligations on websites selling digital content, e.g. music. You should also be aware of different legislation if you sell products or services outside of the United Kingdom.
One key thing to remember is that you should request users’ specific consent (for example, by requiring them to click on an ‘agree’ button) when presenting them with any terms.
The majority of websites will now try and optimise themselves in some way for users accessing the site on mobiles, either by having a mobile app, a mobile website or a responsive/adaptive website. The legal issues discussed here are equally as applicable for your mobile offering but you have the added conundrum of presenting things like your terms and conditions in a way that makes them readable on a mobile device. Enhancing the user experience of your legal statements will help them be enforceable if a dispute ever arose.
From the 1st January 2015, new regulations will come into place where VAT on digital services sold in the EU will be chargeable in the place of purchase rather than the place of supply. This change applies to all UK traders, not just those who are VAT registered. This is very important as many traders with no experience of VAT will now have to mobilise quickly to comply with the ruling. However, this change does only apply to those traders who make supplies of digital services.
To read part one, where Tahir looks at domain names, content and data protection laws, click here.
For more information on Industry member, Tahir visit his personal partner page on the Sheridans website. To contact him directly, visit The Industry Directory, email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 020 7079 0103.