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How to keep your website legal

You may think that the biggest consideration when it comes to your company’s website is how it looks and whether your customers can use it. But, as with any aspect of business, it is vitally important that your website complies with the law.

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You may think that the biggest consideration when it comes to your company's website is how it looks and whether your customers can use it, but is it legal? As with any aspect of business, it is vitally important that your website complies with the law. Whether you are planning a new website or have an existing site in place it is important that you consider the following issues. Details On 1 October 2008, Sections 82 to 85 of the Companies Act 2006 came into force, setting out which details you need display on your business' electronic communications. On every email and within your website you must display your company name, number, place of registration, and the registered office address. This information only has to be displayed once on a website but there are still a large number of sites that do not meet even these basic legal requirements. Make sure that yours is not one of them. If your business trades online, or undertakes an activity that is subject to VAT, then another act, E-commerce Regulations 2002, also applies to you. As well as the above, you must also display details including your email address, details of any professional regulatory or supervisory body with which you are registered and your VAT registration number. Accessibility It is important that your website can be used by everybody, regardless of disability. For example, people with disabilities such as visual impairment require sufficient visual contrast to read text or people who cannot use a mouse may use their keyboard to navigate around your website instead. Also, you should make sure that elements like JavaScript, Flash or images can be disabled to help the individual find the required information. If an alternative is not presented, as text for example, this can be considered a breach of the Equality Act 2010, and your website could be taken down by your hosting provider as a result. Read more on how to make your website more accessible. Terms & Conditions If goods are sold through a website a contract is formed at the point of sale. It is therefore a legal requirement that terms and conditions can be downloaded and printed prior to forming the contract. The purchaser may cancel the contract, i.e. return the goods for refund within 30 days unless the goods are perishable or custom made. Also, delivery should be made within 30 days. Copyright Copyright laws are there to protect content owners. A copyright statement on your site protects you from unwanted copying of your website content. It is important also to be aware or where content comes from. If you have not created content directly where did it come from and what licence was it under? Both text and images can be copyright so ensure there are no breaches that can lead to prosecution. Data protection and privacy If you collect and store data on website visitors you must notify the Information Commissioner's Office unless exempt. A privacy statement should also be available from your site. Sample copyright notices, privacy statements and disclaimers can be found at the Business Link website and modified for your own purposes. About the author Martin Saunders runs MS Internet Ltd., an expert website design and development company. MS Internet gives a friendly, personal service and offers design, programming, e-commerce, search engine optimisation, web hosting and domain name registration services. For more information visit their website or email info@msinternet.co.uk

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