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James Chapman


In the wake of the COVID-19 era, many UK SMEs were forced to move their businesses online for the first time and did so with limited knowledge of e-commerce laws and consumer rights. The consequence of this is a lack of website compliance, a new Trading Standards audit has revealed. The ‘Online Audit’, focusing on the home maintenance sector, revealed a striking 3% consumer protection legislation compliance rate, with most transgressors breaking multiple consumer laws. Some websites even failed to mention any consumer cancellation rights. This Trading Standards audit will cycle new sectors annually, based on the number of complaints received in an effort to ‘dramatically’ increase online compliance over the next decade. This means your business sector could be next.

The information that must be disclosed on a website will depend upon the nature of the business, its target audience and the functionality of the website. Consider if your site provides information only, or if it has e-commerce functionality and if so, is that on a business-to-business basis or business-to-consumer.

Whilst it is not possible to set out in full all of the information requirements that might apply to your business, we set out below an overview of some of the website information requirements that your business may need to comply with.

e commerce consumer law

Minimum website disclosure requirements

Before considering the complexities of e-commerce, there are some minimum statutory requirements applicable to all UK websites, irrespective of whether a website provides information only or has any e-commerce functionality. The following information should be disclosed on a website:

  • Website operator name (both trading and registered names)
  • Company number and place of registration
  • Physical address and communication address
  • If undertaking an activity subject to VAT, then VAT number
  • The name and details of any trade bodies, professional associations or schemes to which the business belongs or is subject to
  • Details of any dispute resolution procedure as a result of requirements under a code of conduct, trade association, or professional body

This information need not be on every page of your website, but it must be easy to find. Under the Companies Act 2006, details relating to the company’s name, registered number and address should also be clearly displayed on all business documentation including letters, notices, emails, invoices, receipts etc.

In addition to the above minimum requirements, if you are selling online to consumers there are other specific information requirements.


Consumer specific compliance requirements

Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 (CCR), e-commerce websites transacting with consumers will be subject to more stringent pre and post contract information requirements, including the requirement to display information such as the following:

  • The main characteristics and functionality of the goods, services or digital content
  • Price and payment information
  • Delivery information
  • Timescales
  • Complaint handling process

Importantly, any business selling goods, services or digital content to consumers online must set out details regarding a consumer's cancellation rights and when a consumer may lose those rights.


Other disclosure requirements for websites

There might be other information which needs to be disclosed on your website, depending on the nature and size of your business. Examples include:

  • Corporate governance statement
  • Slavery and human trafficking statement
  • Gender pay gap report
  • Privacy notice

There may also be specific regulatory requirements relevant to your business which you need to be aware of and if you sell to consumers abroad, remember that there might be local requirements that you also need to comply with.


Consequences of disclosure failure

Ensuring that your e-commerce site is consumer law compliant is important. The information requirements are in place, so consumers know they can seek redress and exercise their rights should something go wrong. However, failure to provide this information does not just jeopardise your relationship and trust with consumers, it could impact your contract with a consumer, have cost implications and land your business in serious regulatory trouble.

Depending on what information you have failed to provide to a consumer, there is a range of potential consequences:

  • You may be found in breach of contract and the consumer may be able to claim costs incurred as a result of the breach;
  • the order may be deemed invalid;
  • the consumer may be entitled to an extension of the cancellation period;
  • you may be obligated to bear costs of returning goods, the additional delivery charge, or any other costs the consumer would normally be required to pay.

In addition to this headache, you could be on the receiving end of an unwanted visit from Trading Standards. This could attract all manner of negative publicity. In the most extreme cases, your business could be reported to the Competition and Markets Authority which, in the near future, could mean pecuniary sanctions. These requirements have not previously been a focus of enforcement, but the recent Trading Standards audit suggests now is the time to get your house in order.

Failure to comply with these disclosure requirements can lead to a lack of trust and reputational issues which in turn will affect sales and revenue. By making it easy for consumers to navigate your website, obtain relevant information and contact details, this will demonstrate that you take your consumer protection obligations seriously and that customers can trust you and contact you to seek redress if there are any issues.  


Can we help?

We have outlined some of the key information requirements in this article, but to fully understand how your business can stay compliant and to get tailored advice for your business and website, contact our specialist Commercial & Technology team [email protected].

Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.

Get in touch

If you have any questions relating to this article or have any legal disputes you would like to discuss, please contact the Commercial & Technology team on

[email protected]
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