7 Website Content Legal Requirements for Businesses (2020)

Website content legal requirements
Table of Contents

There are various website content legal requirements that modern business websites have to adhere to. Your website is simultaneously an electronic storefront, a sales channel, a customer contact point and a service and information resource. It is also a legal entity in its own right, with rules specifying certain types of information that every business website has to publish.

So what are the website content legal requirements in the UK? And what’s the easiest way to add this information to your website?

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What website content legal requirements do websites have to follow?

All website content legal requirements fall into 3 categories.

Shoppers and website content legal requirements

Let’s take a brief look at the legal background to these requirements, We’ll also touch on things that aren’t necessarily legally required, but are certainly recommended.

This article is applicable to the UK and the EU, although some principles are good practice anywhere in the world.

7 Website Content Legal Requirements

We’ve pulled together a quick checklist of website content legal requirements and recommendations.

1. Company Information

Registered companies such as limited companies and limited liability partnerships (LLPs) must publish their main registration details on their website, namely:

  • Company name
  • Registered business address
  • Place of registration
  • Registration number
  • Details of membership of any trade organisations.

For sole traders and non-registered companies, you must provide a principal business address.

This is probably the most basic of all website content legal requirements. They were some of the first regulations introduced under the EU distance selling directive to crack down on fraudulent operators running scams from fake websites.

The best place to put this information is generally the footer of your website. You can easily add widgets to the footer using the Customize button in most WordPress themes.

2. Contact Details

In addition to company information, the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 state that all websites must also clearly display contact information.

This is to make sure customers always have the option to query an order or transaction made online.

The requirement to clearly display contact information is most easily covered by having a dedicated contact page with a form that your visitor can fill out.

Contact form website email inbox

It’s good practice to include a phone number, although that isn’t a legal requirement. You may find it helps with conversions, though.

3. Privacy Policy

Websites have always had to publish a privacy policy if they collect and process information from visitors, for example:

  • By asking for subscriptions to a newsletter
  • When logging customer details after making a sale.

A privacy policy has to state clearly what data is collected, what it will be used for, and how it will be protected.

The GDPR has built on existing privacy policy requirements by stating that they must be written so ordinary readers can understand them – in other words, not hiding the use of data behind legal jargon.

They must also include a clear explanation of the individual’s rights in relation to their data, including opt-out steps, their right to be told what data is held on them, and their right to ask for all personal data to be deleted.

Find out how to write a GDPR privacy policy yourself.

4. Cookie Policy

The GDPR has reclassified information processed by cookies and similar technologies as personal data. The use of cookies has been regulated in the UK for a number of years, requiring websites to offer a means of opting out.

Your use of cookies must now be explained fully in a GDPR policy, accompanied by explicit consent from the web user. That means, on most websites, you need a cookie popup plugin.

EU flag

If you can’t use a plugin, you need to make sure your solution ticks these boxes:

  1. It pops up at the point of access to the site which tells the visitor that cookies are used
  2. It has an ‘I accept’ button, which acts as opt-in consent
  3. You have a clear link to a dedicated cookie policy that explains why cookies are being used, how the information will be used, and how it will be kept safe.

5. Terms and conditions

The details of the terms and conditions a company has to publish will vary according to the nature of the business.

For example, an e-commerce business selling goods has to include terms of delivery and returns to comply with distance selling regulations. But these are not applicable to companies that sell services.

The principle behind terms and conditions are that they set out the contractual basis of the transaction between customer and online business. They are legally binding and guarantee a level of service customers can expect.

Five key things to include in your terms and conditions are:

  1. Full breakdown of all costs, including taxes, delivery charges, service charges, use of extras like premium rate phone lines etc.
  2. Payment details
  3. Who will fulfill the order, including contact details
  4. Details of cancellation periods
  5. Duration of the terms, e.g. how long goods are under guarantee.

6. Disclaimer and Copyright Notice

If you want to reserve rights to the content on your website, you should publish a copyright notice.

Equally, if you want to grant permission to visitors to republish or re-use content from your site, you should specify the terms. You can also specify a Creative Commons license.

Creative Commons copyright

A disclaimer is an important legal notice protecting a company from liability for how content on its website is used. Think of it as a kind of ‘vehicles are left at their owner’s risk’ notice for websites – the business grants permission for people to use their content, but accepts no liability for any consequences that arise from them doing so.

Without publishing a disclaimer like this, you will be deemed not to have informed visitors of their legal position in relation to your content. If they do then try to download something you make available and it somehow damages their computer systems, they could sue you for liability.

7. Accessible Content

Website accessibility refers to making the content of your site available to everyone regardless of any special needs, including:

  • Visual and hearing impairment
  • Difficulties with motor function that might make use of a keyboard or mouse difficult
  • Cognitive needs, such as dyslexia and autism.

The W3C organisation is responsible for an internationally-recognised set of standards outlining principles and practices relating to website accessibility, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0.

While there is no explicit requirement in UK law for websites to follow the guidelines, it is widely understood that accessibility is implicitly covered by The Equality Act 2010, which demands businesses and organisations make sure all services can be accessed equally by all persons.

Is your website legal?

Creating website content that ticks all of these boxes can be time-consuming. But once you have the basic framework written, like your terms and policies, you probably won’t have to change much as your business grows. And you’ll know that you meet all website content legal requirements.

If you need help writing the content for your website, we have a team ready and waiting to help. Contact us today for a chat about getting started with your new content.

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