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British Law >> Organisation Area >> Internet

Internet - eBusiness and eCommerce

Operating a business web site requires consideration of a range of law areas. A number of standard forms can be used / adapted to cover some areas such as Mutual Linking Agreements, Privacy Statements, Noticeboard Terms of Use, Web Sales Agreement, Website Terms of Use, etc.

To trade within the law online, there are three main areas of law to take account of: The Data Protection Act 1998 - The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 - The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002.

Data Protection

The Data Protection Act is designed to protect people from unrestricted access to personal information. The Act is designed to ensure that people who hold information follow a code of conduct to ensure safety of personal information.

The Act contains eight Data Protection Principles.
These state that all data must be:

  • Processed fairly and lawfully
  • Obtained & used only for specified and lawful purposes
  • Adequate, relevant and not excessive
  • Accurate, and where necessary, kept up to date
  • Kept for no longer than necessary
  • Processed in accordance with the individuals rights (as defined)
  • Kept secure
  • Transferred only to countries that offer adequate data protection

Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations

The regulations require that if you retail (not business to business) online, by mail order, or by telephone, then you must provide clear information about your offer before purchase, and so no extras like taxes or shipping should come as a surprise. You should provide written confirmation of an order following purchase, and you must allow for a cooling off period of seven (7) working days for most goods. There are useful links below.

Electronic Commerce Directive

The directive, and ensuing legislation, requires you to prominently display the name of your business and full contact details on your website. There are also requirements to display clear information on pricing, taxes, delivery and all conditions of sale (terms and conditions).

For free information and advice on a range of legal issues relating to business online, the following links may be of use:

Information Commissioner addresses issues such as the data protection Act, Freedom of Information Act, etc. They also manage the Data Protection Register which you will have to comply with if your company holds personal data as defined by the Act.

DTI Guidance on Distance Selling Regulations and compliance.

HMSO full text of The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000.

DTI Guide to Complying With The E-Commerce Regulations 2002.

HSMO full text of The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002.

Business Best Practice site of the DTI.

Numerous standard documents are available covering web site agreements, internet usage, domain name sales, web site terms and conditions, content supply, and other aspects of e-business and internet law.