Now more than ever before, growing businesses need a digital presence. A well designed, search optimised, and regularly updated website will help your customers find you online, even when they can’t visit you.  
 
And if you want to stay in touch with them after they visit your website, the collection of data through contact forms and gated content will make sure you have all the right information (and permissions) to do so. 
Data is a key element in the online relationship between you and your customers. But what you may not know is that there are several different types of regulation governing what they share with you - and what you should share with them. Some will apply to everyone, while others will only affect those who sell through their website.  
 
But whether you’re setting up or refreshing your website, or perhaps adding an online shop, it’s important to understand the rules you’ll need to abide by. A failure to adhere to your legal obligations could have a number of costly consequences; from falling down the online search listings through to hefty fines. 
 
With that in mind, here are six essential things every business owner with a website should know about: 
 

1. GDPR 

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is EU law, but will continue to apply here in the UK after the Brexit transition. Its rules are tailored for the UK by the Data Protection Act 2018.  
 
Full details can be read here, but a simplified overview is: you must now have a compliant privacy policy on your website, you must have a legal justification for storing and using customer information - which usually means asking permission - and you must do so securely; only keeping it for as long as necessary and only using it for the purpose agreed. You must also be able to completely remove personal records from your business if requested to do so. 
 
It’s important to note that businesses of all sizes must comply with GDPR, even the very smallest. It’s also worth knowing that fines for non-compliance are harsher than any seen in the UK for data breaches before.  
 
We help to minimise the hassle of GDPR for our customers by ensuring every it’seeze website comes complete with a free SSL certificate, privacy policy, cookie notice and secure contact forms that protect sensitive data. You can find more information about this here
 

2. PECR 

The Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations (PECR) have also been handed down to the UK through EU law. They sit alongside the GDPR and Data Protection Act and give specific guidance for any business that wants to call their customers or send electronic communications such as emails, text messages or instant messages. There is some overlap between PECR and GDPR when it comes to security, cookies, and the monitoring of data, i.e. website traffic and location data.  
 
Full details of the PECR and how it might affect you can be read here, but the most important considerations for a typical growing business are compliant data collection and cookie consent (always ask explicitly and let customers know exactly how their data will be used), and safe data storage.  
 
At it’seeze, we make it easier for customers to comply with PECR by including cookie notifications as standard with every website we build, and by offering encrypted connections to email servers for all clients who have their email accounts with us.  
 
You can read more about how we help to keep your business and customer data secure in our Security Quick Guide
 

3. Copyright 

Any business with a website should know a little about copyright law. It will affect you in two ways: firstly by protecting the content on your website, and secondly by dictating what you can and cannot share via your site.  
 
In the first instance, the law recognises that your website is a valuable business asset and any original content it contains is your ‘intellectual property’. Copyright prevents people from copying, distributing, selling, renting, or adapting your work without your permission. The most important thing to know is that you don’t have to register or pay to get this protection; your work is protected as soon as it goes live on a server.  
 
A friendly reminder never hurts though, and we do recommend that the copyright symbol is used wherever you would like to remind others that original content such as photography shouldn’t be replicated. 
 
The second way in which copyright law affects business websites is to limit your own usage of another’s ‘intellectual property’. This might be of particular importance if you want to feature images that are not your own design or photography - for example, images from elsewhere on the internet, or stock photography. It’s crucial to make sure you have the right permissions in place and have licensed the image for the specific purpose of website use.  
 
It’s something which we protect our own clients from by ensuring that all website designs are unique to them. Should we need to use stock photography, we’ll always make sure that it’s properly licensed. And if you want to add stock images yourself, it’s easy to do so through the image manager within the it’seeze website editor. It provides direct access to thousands of free images from Pixabay that you can use on your website. 
 

4. Trademarks 

Trademarks also protect intellectual property but work in a slightly different way. If you have created unique branding for your product or service and want to prevent anyone else from copying it, you can apply for a trademark. This might be a name, symbol, logo, slogan, brand colour, or even a shape that distinguishes your business from any other. Registering it as a trademark gives you exclusive rights to use it for 10 years.  
 
It’s an important thing to do because it prevents competitors that are trading in similar goods or services from passing themselves off as you. It can also add value to your business if you are looking to sell or are seeking investment, and can prevent you from being forced to rebrand due to a dispute over ownership of the intellectual property listed above. 
 
It’s important to note that trademarks can either be registered (®) or unregistered (™), and we would always recommend making it clear to your website visitors exactly what your trademarks are. You can see an example of how to do this in the statement shown in our website footer below. This is particularly important for unregistered trademarks, as it’s only by using them that you gain any rights over them. The government advice on this is really helpful. 
 

5. Displaying the right information 

Every website for a limited company is required to explicitly state their limited status. They are also required to prominently and permanently display the following key information: registered company number, registered office address, and registration location (either England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, or Ireland). This information is typically found on your website footer or on an easy to locate ‘Contact Us’ page.  
 
All business websites should also include details of the usual place of business, details of any trade associations, details of any relevant supervisory authority (e.g. Financial Services Authority) and your VAT number. If you’re a charity, you must also display your registered charity address and charity number. 
 
If your business website is also an online shop, additional information will be required. This is because the Distance Selling Regulations will also apply to you (see point 6).  
 
The chart below provides a quick guide to the information your website will need to display, dependent on business type: 
 
Info to include: 
Sole traders 
/partnerships 
LTD, PLC, & LLP companies 
Charities 
Ecommerce 
Company/charity name 
X 
X 
Name of each trader/partner 
X 
 
 
 
Registered company/charity number 
 
X 
X 
Registered/trading address 
X 
X 
Registration jurisdiction (either England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, or Ireland) 
X 
X 
Registered VAT number 
X 
X 
Details of how to contact business by non-electronic means 
X 
X 
Details of any relevant trade associations or supervisory/regulatory authority (e.g. Financial Services Authority or Fundraising Regulator) 
X 
X 
Details of any trademark and/or copyright registrations 
X 
X 
 
An example of how to lay out this information is provided below: 
 
Associated Widgets Limited, 123 High Street, Sampleton, SA1 1AS 
Registered company number 12345678 in England and Wales 
VAT number: 123456789 
Contact number: 01234 567890 
Associated Widgets Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct 
Authority. FCA register number 123456 
 
Widget-it ® is a registered trademark in the United Kingdom and Ireland 
 
 

6. Distance Selling Regulations 

If your business includes the selling of goods or services online, you will need to follow the Distance Selling Regulations. These are a set of rules that apply to any type of distance selling (e.g. by mail order or phone), along with some extra rules that only apply to selling online.  
 
A clear and concise guide to the Distance Selling Regulations can be found here but, in brief, the regulations cover the information you must tell customers before they make a purchase - e.g. that they have to pay and how they can do this, the information you must give them about their right to cancel, and the information you must give them after a purchase is made - along with timescales for doing so.  
 
Abiding by the Distance Selling Regulations is important as it ensures that you have an effective contract in place with your customer, protecting both them and you. There are also specific rules for those selling downloads or streaming services, as well as VAT and reporting rules for businesses selling to the EU. 
 
While it’s not rocket science, getting to grips with the details of regulation can be a headache for busy, growing businesses. That’s why it can pay to work with a website partner who can offer you one-to-one advice when you’re getting set up, and a reliable support team for anything that comes after. If you’d like to find out more about working with it’seeze to create your own unique website, please get in touch
 
Please note: this blog post is intended to provide guidance only and does not contain an exhaustive list of everything you need to do to achieve full legal compliance. We would always advise that you consult a solicitor to find out exactly what information is required by law for your business or charity. 
 
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On 3rd December 2020 at 12:55, Patrick O 'Sullivan wrote:
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