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Avoiding Website Woes with Tech Law for Startups

Posted on Feb 13, 2013 by Dr. Julie Nixon  | 0 Comments

Tech Law for StartupsOur offices were the venue again last week  for another Tech Law for Startups Meetup with Andy giving an overview on some of the key legal issues relating to commercial websites.

We first discussed the information which by law should be provided on a website, such as;

• a geographic address for the website user to contact;

• an email address;

• trade registration details if appropriate-registration with Companies House should be mentioned if appropriate;

• details of the professional body if you are a member of a regulated profession; and

• VAT registration details.

If your website is operating under a company you should also include on your website your company registration number, registered address and registered office.

Other points to consider if you are trading online are whether you are selling to just businesses or also consumers.  Consumer legislation means that there are more obligations on the website operator when selling to consumers.  For example the ‘Distance Selling’ Regulations require information on a number of points to be provided, including:

• the technical steps needed to conclude any contract;

• details on how to amend/correct an order before submission;

• price of goods/services including taxes;

• any arrangements applying to payment and delivery; and

• a notice of the right to cancel during a seven day cooling off period.

The importance of complying with Data Protection legislation was also discussed.  A key point to bear in mind was the need to be “transparent” about what your website does with personal information.  This should be covered in your website privacy policy which should clearly explain what personal information is obtained and what you do with it. Your website should also be very clear on any use of cookies, whether by clear reference to the relevant section of your privacy policy or by some other obvious method.

The Meetup then considered the different types of terms and conditions which can apply to websites. All commercial websites should as a minimum have general terms of use (covering matters such as basic disclaimers and intellectual property notices) while more sophisticated sites will need terms of sale and/or terms of service.

We concluded the main discussion by looking at issues of liability for comments posted on your website. Moderating or editing comments can imply that you have approved all comments which appear on your site. Most website operators therefore rely on having a clear complaints procedure  and making sure they act swiftly to take down any inappropriate material when notified.

Mulling over the presentation later on with beer and pizza, many attendees voiced their appreciation for the advice given, agreeing their websites certainly needed a few changes. There is much to consider with a start-up business, and website compliance can be overlooked.

We finished the night by asking those in attendance for their thoughts on what would be useful for future Meetups. If you would like to join the group please go to http://www.meetup.com/Tech-Law-for-Startups/ and feel free to suggest more ideas for discussion in the comments below.    

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