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eCommerce Laws: Your Legal Obligations

07 May 2014 by Daniel Lewis


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Setting up an online shop can be great fun, and an excellent way to make an income. You source your suppliers, find somewhere to sell your products and wait for the profit to roll in.

If only it was all so simple. It's really good that customers in the UK are protected by a number of consumer law trading regulations; but this does mean it's important that your store complies with the relevant rules when selling online.

Here’s what you need to know about eCommerce laws:


Online shops are ‘distance sellers’


This means that, just like mail order businesses or salespeople on the phone, you have to provide specific information on your website before and after orders are placed.

The information that you need to show customers before they purchase your products includes:

  •     Your business name and address
  •     Product prices including taxes
  •     Payment processes
  •     Delivery costs and details
  •     How to terminate any contracts that are open ended or last longer than a year
  •     How customers have the right to cancel


After an order has been placed, you have to contact your customer in writing to confirm it. Here, you should tell them:

    How they can cancel the order and whether they’d be liable to cover the costs of returning the product
    Where they can send any letters of complaint
    Your guarantee policies and after-sales services
    How to terminate any contracts that are open ended or last longer than a year

Online selling laws – extra regulations for online sellers
On top of these duties, your online shop must also abide by some other online-specific obligations. You must:

  •     Detail the processes involves in placing orders
  •     Electronically acknowledge orders as soon as possible
  •     Allow customers to correct any order errors they may have made
  •     Display information about which languages are available to them
  •     Ensure your terms and conditions are capable of being downloaded and printed off
  •     Display a company email address
  •     Display your business VAT number, if you have one


What you have to do when selling abroad


If you’re selling products outside of the EU, you won’t be able to charge any VAT. Instead, you’ll have to fill out a ‘proof of export’ and keep it. You should detail:

  •     Any internal correspondence or notes about the order
  •     An invoice
  •     Relevant commercial transport documents
  •     Insurance charges
  •     Bank statements
  •     Consignment notes


So long as you display this information online, as well as in relevant order emails, you’ll be compliant with UK eCommerce laws.


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