There are certain website requirements that you must follow when operating your site. This guide and our associated Checklist of information to include to ensure your website is legally compliant will help you to ensure your website is legally compliant. If you don’t provide the right information, you can be fined and you risk damaging your business’s reputation and customer relationships.
You can use this guide before you launch your website, to make sure you have covered everything, or if you have been operating your website for a while and want to check you are doing everything correctly. This guide can be used whether you run an ecommerce website or another type of website.
To find all the template policies and documents you need to run your website, you can use our Starting an online business toolkit.
- Website legal requirements: the basics
- Ecommerce website legal requirements
- Ecommerce website legal requirements after a sale has been made
- Age verification
Website legal requirements: the basics
What are the main legal requirements for my website in the UK?
You are legally required to make certain information available to people who visit your website or app, which you can find in our Checklist of information to include to ensure your website is legally compliant. As a minimum, check your website covers the following:
- contact details and certain other information about your business (details are set out later in this guide); and
- if you use your website as a portal for sales, details about what you are selling and customers’ rights (ecommerce requirements are explained later in this guide). These can be set out in your terms and conditions of sale.
Note that you are not technically required to provide most of this information to business customers (who are not consumers). However, you will usually not know for sure whether it is a business or consumer using your website unless you sell to trade customers only. Therefore it is best practice to ensure all the legal requirements for dealing with consumers are covered.
What contact details do I need to include on my website?
You must include the following business details on your website, regardless of whether you are using it for ecommerce or not:
- the name and address of your business;
- your business contact details, including an email address;
- if your business is a limited company, your company’s registered number, the part of the UK where it is registered (eg England or Wales) and the address of your company’s registered office (if different from its usual address);
- your business’s VAT number, if registered; and
- if your business is part of a regulated profession (eg lawyers, accountants) or is supervised under an authorisation scheme (eg a gambling authorisation scheme), details of that profession or scheme and a link to any rules or code of conduct applicable to you as a result.
For a checklist to help you ensure all the legal requirements are covered, use Checklist of information to include to ensure your website is legally compliant.
If you make sales online, you must include the above information plus the following:
- whether you are a limited company, sole trader or partnership;
- if you are acting on behalf of another trader (eg if you provide an online platform selling content developed by different programmers), the geographical address and identity of that other trader; and
- if you are required to hold professional liability insurance or guarantees, information about your insurance/guarantee and your insurer or guarantor’s contact details.
Ecommerce website legal requirements
Key requirements for your ecommerce website
What product or service information must I put on my ecommerce website?
In addition to the information set out above, if you are running an ecommerce website you must also include the following on your website:
- a description of the goods, services, or digital content you are selling;
- a clear indication of your prices;
- how the customer can pay and which payment methods you accept;
- the delivery options you offer, including any charges or restrictions on delivery;
- details of the customer’s right to cancel a contract and/or returns or refunds;
- for long-term or rolling contracts, how long the contract will last and details about how it can be brought to an end;
- details of any additional services or items that the customer has the option of paying for (eg the option to purchase insurance with jewellery) – note that you cannot include add-ons automatically, the customer must actively choose them;
- a reminder that you will supply any goods that are as described on your website;
- details of any after-sales services or guarantees you offer; and
- a model cancellation form which consumers can use to cancel their contract with you (see Cancellation form). You should provide a link to both a form that can be filled in and submitted online, as well as a printable version, on your website. Note that this is only a legal requirement if your customers are consumers. There is no automatic right to cancel for business customers and no legal requirement to provide the cancellation form.
These details can be set out in your terms and conditions of sale. Terms and conditions of sale are not legally required, but help to ensure expectations on both sides are clear, and enables you to protect your business if something goes wrong.
Where can I find template terms and conditions of sale?
Template terms and conditions which are suitable for online sales are as follows:
- if you are selling goods Terms and conditions – Sale of goods;
- if you are a service provider Terms and conditions – Services; or
- if you are selling goods and services Terms and conditions – Sale of goods and services.
If you choose to have standard terms and conditions, you should provide a clear link to them on your website (eg in the footer of every page of your site) and ensure that they are in a format that can be downloaded and printed off by the customer. It is good practice to include a link and a tick-box near the end of your online sales process to make customers acknowledge that they have seen your terms and conditions before they can actually make a purchase.
You can find more guidance on terms and conditions of sale at Terms and conditions of sale.
Pricing and payment
What are the legal website requirements around pricing of products or services?
You must give information on the price of goods or services, including any taxes, or the method of calculating the price (eg £15 per hour or £4.99 per metre) as well as details of any deposits or guarantees that must be paid.
For rolling contracts (eg subscriptions), you should also state the total cost per billing period (eg £4.99 per month). There are rules about how you present your prices; see Descriptions, pricing and labelling for details.
What are the legal website requirements around payment information?
You must include information about how the customer can pay and which payment methods you accept. There are limits on the amount of additional fees (surcharges) you can charge customers and how you can impose these charges. See Other information to include on a sales website for more guidance on surcharges.
What information must the order pages or shopping basket of my website include?
- how the customer can complete their purchase, eg a button marked ‘click here to continue with your order’;
- how the customer can identify and correct input errors before they place an order (this may include the ability to remove or change the quantity of items in their basket or edit the delivery details); and
- a feature which clearly requires the customer to give their consent to the contract and to their duty to pay you, such as a ‘pay now’ button.
Before the customer places their order, it is a good idea to include a tick-box which the customer must mark to confirm they have read and understood your terms and conditions.
Can I add additional items to an online customer’s order with a pre-ticked box?
No. You must get your customer’s express consent to paying for any additional items, eg if you sell insurance or aftercare packages to go with expensive items. The customer must actively do something to indicate that they want the additional item; you cannot rely on a pre-ticked box, for example. If you do not get the customer’s express consent (eg you add insurance to all sales automatically), you may be required to reimburse the customer for the additional costs if they object later.
Delivery and returns
What should my delivery policy be for goods bought online?
You are under a legal obligation to deliver goods ordered online within a particular time frame; this depends upon whether the customer is a consumer or a business customer.
As a minimum, you must deliver goods as soon as possible within 30 days of the order being placed.
- Business customer
As a minimum, you must deliver the goods within a reasonable period of time. What is reasonable depends on the circumstances, including what is normal in the industry for goods of the type you are selling.
Many businesses will offer various options for delivery, and if you do this then you must deliver the order within whatever time the customer has agreed to and paid for.
What information about a customer’s right to cancel must I put on my website?
You are required to set out certain information about a customer’s right to cancel and/or returns on your website, including the conditions, time limit and procedures for doing so. What you need to say depends upon whether you are selling goods, services or digital content or a combination of them, and whether the customer is a consumer or another business (there is no automatic right to cancel online sales between businesses, unless you have provided this in your terms and conditions).
Our standard terms and conditions set the information out in the required manner and it is suggested that you use these in order to comply with your legal obligations.
You can also find a guide to customer rights in online sales at Quick guide to customer rights in online sales.
If I sell digital content, what information must I give about it on my website?
For digital content such as streaming services or downloadable software, this should describe its functionality, technical protection measures (eg virus-protection software), and compatibility information. Customers must be able to see this information before they buy.
If you are selling digital content and intend to provide it to a customer who is a consumer within 14 days of them placing their order, there are additional rules. You can find the relevant rules in our Quick guide to customer rights in online sales. You must obtain the following (perhaps using a tick-box):
- express consent to the download starting sooner than 14 days’ time; and
- acknowledgment that they will lose their legal right to cancel the order as a result.
Ecommerce website legal requirements after a sale has been made
Do I need to send an order confirmation for online sales?
Yes. Once your customer has placed their order for goods or services on your website, you must acknowledge the order as soon as possible in writing or via an email. See Other information to include on a sales website for more guidance on what your order confirmation for sales should say.
How can I check the person I am selling to online is not underage?
It is up to you to make sure you are satisfied that you have done everything possible to verify your customer’s age. When selling online, you can:
- require payment by a credit card in the name of the customer (as usually credit cards are only available to those aged 18 or over);
- insist on age verification upon delivery through ID checks (some courier services will not accept this responsibility, so check with yours);
- require collection in-store if you have one, so that you have an opportunity to check ID then; and/or
- set up online verification checks (software which can include checking the electoral register or credit reference agencies).
Marion joined Sparqa Legal as a Senior Legal Editor in 2018. She previously worked as a corporate/commercial lawyer for five years at one of New Zealand’s leading law firms, Kensington Swan (now Dentons Kensington Swan), and as an in-house legal consultant for a UK tech company. Marion regularly writes for Sparqa’s blog, contributing across its commercial, IP and health and safety law content.