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A recent survey of e-commerce websites, operated by Warwickshire companies, found many offences being committed, because many web sites lacked key information.
The information contained on this webpage is designed to assist the developers of business web pages, to create e-commerce websites, that comply with Trading Standards laws. There is also some additional information on how web developers can work with businesses, to create bespoke terms and conditions.
Some e-commerce websites surveyed, were also failing to encrypt personal details and payment information. Sensitive information (including credit card numbers, user names and passwords) should always be encrypted with an SSL certificate.
SSL (or Secure Socket Layer) creates an encrypted connection between a web server and web browser, allowing for private information to be transmitted securely between trader and consumer.
Computer savvy consumers won’t share their information and certainly won’t attempt to buy anything from a website, that is not secured with an SSL Certificate. Therefore, it is in the interest of businesses to ensure that their websites are secure.
A more secure internet is good for business and consumers. Many paid for web hosting companies offer SSL certificates, as part of their service, but if you are developing a website on a free platform, you may not be offered encryption. However, there are organisations that offer free SSL certificates.
Advice on Trading Standards law, including terms and conditions
Trading Standards laws relating to business information and e-commerce require that certain information appear on a business website.
All businesses, whether or not they are using their website to sell goods, must, on their homepage, ‘about us’ page, or ‘contact us’ page; provide:
- the true trading name of the business
- the full geographic address at which the trader is established
- the companies’ registration number
- the part of the United Kingdom in which the company is registered (for example, England and Wales)
- the companies registered office address.
If the business is using the website to sell goods or services, there are additional requirements.
The website must also provide:
- An easily accessible telephone number for consumer complaints or enquiries and an active email address
- A complaint-handling policy that should appear in a prominent place
- The name and address of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) entity or EU listed body (where the trader is compelled to use an EU approved ADR). Otherwise a link to the Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform on their website
- An accurate description of the main characteristics of the goods
- The total price of the goods, including VAT, where applicable and any additional costs, for example, gift wrapping
- The cost of delivery or how it can be calculated
- A VAT number, (where applicable)
Immediately prior to confirming the order, the website must show the buyer a clear order summary page, which contains as a minimum:
- A clear description of the main features of the products or services being purchased.
- The total price of the products or services (inclusive of applicable taxes e.g. VAT).
- A clear breakdown of any delivery charges or any other charges, (where applicable).
Before the final ‘buy it’ button is pressed, the website must also make it clear to the consumer, that they are submitting their order and undertaking an obligation to pay for it.
The website must also state that the consumer has a cancellation period (cooling-off period) of 14 days, starting the day after the goods have come into physical possession of the consumer (unless the goods are exempt), including basic delivery costs.
If the trader states in its terms and conditions, that it is the consumer’s responsibility to return the items, reimbursement must be made to the consumer within 14 days, after the day the goods have been received by the trader, or, the day on which the consumer supplies evidence of having sent the goods back.
For no-fault returns, if the trader wishes the consumer to bear the cost of returning the goods, this should be made clear in the terms and conditions on the website. The trader must provide a returns address.
Further guidance on terms and conditions
Unfortunately, when it comes to terms and conditions, there isn’t a one size fits all list. Terms and conditions need to be specifically written for the business you are creating the website for.
Therefore, it isn’t advisable to simply copy and paste the terms and conditions on one website, over to another.
A business’ terms and conditions should set out clearly what should happen in any given situation. They should include:
- A clear definition of what products or services will be provided
- Setting out the payment terms – when is a payment due
- Any guarantees or warranties offered
- Timelines for delivery and any queries
- Specifying what happens if either party doesn’t deliver or pay, or wants to end the relationship
- The term of the agreement and what notice is required, to get out of it
- Which law shall govern the contract
Terms and conditions must also be fair. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 aims to protect consumers against unfair contract terms and notices.
Before producing any terms and conditions, for a business’s website, you should read the advice provided by the Competition and Markets Authority on writing fair contracts.
This fair contract terms quiz may also assist you when developing web pages for businesses
- Fair terms for your customers: an introduction for businesses
- Common myths about contract terms
- Top tips when writing your contract terms
These at-a-glance guides provide an overview of some of the main things you need to know to help you recognise what to avoid when writing your terms.
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