E-commerce Law Briefing
E-commerce law regulated the electronic trading, whether online or not, though generally it does cover online trading. The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 governs the conduct of electronic commerce in the UK. They are a key part of our online law and impact many online activities.
That said; E-commerce law is about much more than the 2002 Regulations. The English law of contract governs online as well as offline contracting. The key tenets of contract law are to be found in the long history of judgements and decisions by the courts, supplemented by legislation such as the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999.
In general, any business trading online (and this does include any business trading on, for example, eBay), needs to comply with the following rules:
- Data Protection Act 1998 - For more information see our Data Protection briefing pages
- You must register under the Data Protection Act if you collect any kind of information about people, these could be your customers, employees or potential customers. This information includes names, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses
- You must state what you do and intend to do with your subject's data and not deviate from that statement
- The Act is applies to any size of business
- You must not export the personal data outside the EC (European Community) without permission from the people you are collecting data on (unless you are covered by safe harbor agreements)
- You must ensure that all information is held securely and must be revealed or deleted upon request from the subjects of the information
- You must only record data which is pertinent to your prime business needs
- Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Act 2000
The Distance Selling Regulations 2000 apply to many ecommerce websites. However, they are not applicable to 'business-to-business' transactions.
- You must provide clear information about your products and services before purchase
- You must be clear about postage and packing costs and whether VAT or any other tax is included in the prices shown on your website
- You must provide a written confirmation of order following purchase, for example a confirmation email
- You must allow a 'cooling off' period where by the customer can change their mind and cancel or return the order within 7 working days for most goods. Certain exclusions do apply with items such as perishable and digital goods
- You must inform your customers of their right to cancel their order with no loss other than return postage and packing
- Ecommerce Directive 2002
- You must display the name of your business, the company registration number (or proprietor's name), geographical address (not a PO Box number), contact information e.g., telephone number and email address, VAT registration number (if registered)
- You may refer to trade or professional schemes if applicable
- You must provide clear information on price, tax and delivery to buyers
- You must clearly display your site's Terms and Conditions
- You must acknowledge all orders
- In commercial communication with your customers, you must clearly identify any electronic communication designed to promote your goods or services
- You must clearly identify the sender of all electronic communication
- You must clearly define any promotional offers and the qualifying conditions regarding these offers
- If you send unsolicited emails, you must clearly identify them as unsolicited
- Information Commissioner’s Office e-privacy directive (ICO Cookie Law) - For more information on the Cookie Law, please refer to our briefing
- Your website must provide clear and comprehensive information about the purposes of the storage of, or access to that information
- Cookies used for functional purposes do not require consent. Cookies used by ekmPowershop.com for instance, which make the cart and other aspects work properly do not require consent/opt in
- E-commerce and the Law - An introductory guide on the subject from Cambridge University (PDF opens a new window).
- The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 - These are the UK implementing Regulations for the Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market (opens a new window).
- Beginners Guide to E-commerce - This simple guide is designed to help businesses understand ecommerce in simple terms (opens a new window).
- Consumer Rights Act 2015 - Ecommerce and Digital Content Legislation (opens a new window)
- The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 - These are the UK implementing Regulations for Directive 97/7/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 May 1997 on the protection of consumers in respect of distance contracts (opens a new window).
- The Electronic Commerce Directive and the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002. Guidance and FAQs (PDF opens in a new window)
- The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 - Guidance document (PDF opens a new window).
- The Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002 (opens a new window).
- Out-law's e-commerce pages - Focusing on online transactions (opens a new window).
Glossary: Advertising, Business to Business, Business to Consumer, Digital Marketing, E-commerce, Electronic Point of Sales, Internet Marketing, M-Commerce, Marketing, Website