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Online Business Regulations and Consumer Rights

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 9 Jul 2010 | comments*Discuss
Online Business Regulations Consumer

All businesses whether they operate online or not must comply with a range of regulations and legislation. These laws are designed to help you as an online business owner operate your enterprise more efficiently. There is a range of consumer rights law that applies to all enterprises including your online business. You can download a comprehensive guide covering the rules and regulations that all businesses have to comply with from the Business Link website: http://tinyurl.com/5exsdl.

Business Regulations

Even though your online business may be specialised, all businesses no matter what kind of goods or services they are trading in and no matter what kind of business format they are using (online or offline selling), a number of key regulations must be complied with. These include:

Trade Descriptions Act 1968
Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982
The Consumer Protection Act 1987
Sale of Goods Act 1979
Control of Misleading Advertisement Regulations 1988
Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999
Consumer Credit Act 1974

It is important that your online business understands the implications of each of these Acts. As a business supplying goods or services to customers, each of these pieces of legislation is designed to protect the consumer and your online business when you enter into a contract of sale.

If you have specific questions regarding how these Acts should be interpreted within your specific online business, you should contact your local Trading Standards office. More information is also available on their website: www.tradingstandards.gov.uk. You can also download a useful guide ‘A Trader’s Guide to the Civil Law Relating to the Sale and Supply of Goods and Services’ from the BERR website: www.berr.gov.uk/files/file25486.pdf.

Consumer Protection

Many of the regulations - specifically the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982) that relate to the relationship your online business has with its customers are designed to protect the basic rights of the consumer. In the seller/buyer contract that will exist every time anyone buys goods or services from your online business these regulations come into force and must be complied with by your online business.

Distance Selling Directive

This law has been in force since 2000 and states clearly the rights of customers who shop with your online business. Note that the legislation only applies to business selling directly to customers. Business selling to other businesses are exempt. The DSR regulations also don’t apply to online auctions. To comply with the main requirements of the legislation your online business must:

  • Display a complete and unambiguous description of the goods or services your business is selling.
  • The price of the goods including any relevant taxes must be clearly shown.
  • Full delivery costs of the goods.
  • Your businesses full contact details.
  • Details of what kind of payment types your business accepts.
  • The customers right to cancel their order.
  • Provide written confirmation of an order once it has been place. This can be via email, letter or fax.
  • Full details of your customers right to cancel their order in accordance with the set time limits that the legislation allows.
  • Give full details if your business will send substitute goods if the ones ordered are out of stock.

A short guide to the distance selling regulations is available on the Office of Fair Trading website:www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/business_leaflets/general/oft698.pdf. A beginners guide to the Distance Selling Regulations is also available to download from the BERR website:?www.berr.gov.uk/files/file14640.pdf.

Data Protection

As your business will trade online and will likely retain detailed information about each customer that buys from your online business, you will have to comply with the Data Protection Act. This protects your customers’ personal details from being abused by companies that hold this information. You can download a guide ‘Getting It Right — A Brief Guide to Data Protection For Small Businesses’ to the data protection act from the Information Commissioner’s Website: http://tinyurl.com/56dvvr.

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How would you go about taking action against an online paper? My husband won a prize from an online company which has never arrived. The company then published an online appology and stated we would receive the prize plus tickets to another event, they then never arrived and now the person who owns the paper is blocking us and not speaking at all. I have told them I intend to take action, and I am but I just need to know who it is I speak or complain to?
chunkymonkey - 28-May-11 @ 7:41 AM
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